Sunday Scripture readings, June 21, 2020
Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time
1) Jer 20:10-13
Psalm 69:8-10, 14, 17, 33-35
2) Rom 5:12-15
Gospel: Mt 10:26-33
Understanding a seemingly vengeful God
Today’s readings call attention to the issue of speaking unwelcome truths.
God has commissioned the prophet Jeremiah to deliver a seemingly unpatriotic and defeatist message to his fellow Israelites, to the effect that God is going to let an enemy devastate their land as punishment for their idolatry and social injustices.
Better surrender to the enemy than oppose them, Jeremiah declares. Even for Jeremiah himself, this is a bitterly unwelcome message. He dreads the oncoming slaughter and struggles with God over his assignment to announce it.
In the Gospel, Jesus tries to put some steel into his disciples with the assurance of God’s care for them when they confront dangerous opponents — and with a warning of the consequences of failing to speak for him when the chips are down.
Those of us who have not been entrusted with a particular prophetic message or do not face physical persecution nevertheless find ourselves in situations where it is uncomfortable or disadvantageous to speak the truth.
In family, work and professional spheres, there are prices to be paid for expressing a religious conviction or insisting on the application of a moral principle. What help do we find in the readings?
As Jeremiah declares unpleasant truths to his fellow Israelites, he carries on a dialogue with God. He prays. His prayers are not neat expressions of trust, just what a person is “supposed” to say to God. They are anguished protests against the situation God has put him in.
But in his prayers — today’s reading is the fourth in the series (see Jeremiah 12:1-5; 15:10-21; 17:14-18) — he comes to a deep faith in God. Evidence of that faith is found in what may strike the reader as a distasteful sentiment: “O Lord, … let me witness the vengeance you take on them.”
Ah, the reader may say, there’s that vengeful Old Testament God coming into view. But the Hebrew term, when applied to God, does not mean getting even but exercising supreme executive authority. Jeremiah looks to God as sovereign over this troubled world, trusting that he will bring justice in the end.
Speaking the truth when it is not likely to be well-received is an act of faith in God, faith that he will ultimately make the truth known to everyone. As Jesus says, “Fear no one. Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed.”
Perrotta is the editor and an author of the “Six Weeks With the Bible” series, teaches part time at Siena Heights University and leads Holy Land pilgrimages. He lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.