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Select Exegesis
June, 25 2017

12th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

Sr. Betty Jane Lillie, S.C.

The disciple’s task was to preach that the kingdom of heaven was at hand.  It was an urgent undertaking, and strangely enough, it often generated hatred for Christ’s name. (Matt 10:22)  How does one handle that?  Jesus told his disciples that the one who endures to the end will be saved. 

            What is the essential characteristic of a disciple?  The disciple is to be like the teacher.  The implication in that is that as Jesus suffered, so would those suffer whom he called to discipleship.  That seems a strange conundrum.  One who preaches Good News ought to be received well.  At the same time, however, Jesus consoled his disciples because they were of great value and would be acknowledged by the Master before his heavenly Father. 

            From the dawn of classical prophecy rejection became the experience of true prophets, because prophets just didn’t say what people wanted to hear.  To his followers Jesus said that a disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master.  (Matt 10:24)  Elsewhere we read that Jesus came to his own home and his own people did not receive him. (John 1:11)  Some think that is the saddest line in the Christian Scriptures.  

            The passage that is the first reading this week is taken from the fifth and last of Jeremiah’s great laments, sometimes called his confessions.  Jeremiah is the only prophet who revealed what he suffered internally from his ministry.  He was even denounced by his familiar friends who watched for his fall so they could take revenge on him. (Jer 20:10-13)  In spite of his suffering Jeremiah expressed his confidence in God’s all powerful protection against the band of evildoers.  He referred to those who suffered as the needy because they knew their need for God’s help. 

            Some think the conclusion of our passage (Jer 20:13) is a fragment from a liturgical hymn that was inserted there to break the heaviness of the texts before and after it.  It certainly contrasts with Jeremiah’s plea for vengeance on his enemies (Jer 20:12) and his desperation with the agony of his own existence. (Jer 20:14)  “Sing to the Lord; praise the Lord!  For he has delivered the lives of the needy from the hand of evildoers.” (Jer 20:13) 

The Psalmist takes up the same theme of suffering and he calls on the Lord to rescue him.  “For the Lord hears the needy, and does not despise his own that are in bonds.” (Ps 69:33)  God’s people suffered much throughout salvation history, and many people would agree that life experience today is not much different.  Following that text, as in Jeremiah 20:13, we have again a note of hope, perhaps taken from another hymn of thanksgiving that assures God’s faithful servants of his saving help. (Ps 69:34-36)  Even in their greatest difficulties they could find the energy to reach out to God’s saving grace.  As the Psalmist says, the oppressed could magnify the Lord and let their hearts revive.

Betty Jane Lillie,  S.C.



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