12th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle A
Sunday Church at Home
during lockdown in the Coronavirus Pandemic
The lay leader makes the sign of the cross, saying:
Leader: ln the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
All reply: Amen
Leader: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
All reply: Blessed be God for ever
Leader: The saying, “It takes all sorts to make a world”, may have appeared sometime in the 1600s, but the Bible anticipated its truth a long time before that. Right from the start the scriptures present a procession of characters extraordinarily different from one another, and by no means paragons of virtue, yet each with a part to play in the saga of God’s love affair with humankind.
Today we hear from one of the most tortured personalities in the whole of the scriptures, the prophet Jeremiah. His unwelcome message of submission to the imperial power of Babylon made him the target not just of vilification but of murderous plots on his life. He does not hesitate to lament his invidious situation and complain loud and long before God.
Jesus’ message in the gospel is stark as he advises his disciples that some will even face death for him, “And do not be afraid of those who kill the body, but cannot kill the soul….”
Easier said than done. We are reminded that whatever troubles may be before you, accept them bravely, remembering Whom you are trying to follow. Do not be afraid. Love one another, bear with one another, and let charity guide you all your life. God will reward you as only He can.
LITURGY OF THE WORD
First Reading: Jeremiah 20:10-13
Introduction to the reading: The prophet Jeremiah lived about 600 years before Christ. He prophesied that Israel, because of its unfaithfulness to God, would be defeated by Babylon. When this began to happen, many of his friends and neighbours denounced him as a traitor and turned on him.
A reading from the Book of Jeremiah
Jeremiah said: I hear many whispering. Terror is on every side! “Denounce him! Let us denounce him!” say all my familiar friends, watching for my fall. “Perhaps he will be deceived, then we can overcome him, and take our revenge on him.” But the Lord is with me as a dread warrior; therefore my persecutors will stumble, they will not overcome me. They will be greatly shamed, for they will not succeed. Their eternal dishonour will never be forgotten. O Lord of hosts, who test the righteous, who see the heart and the mind, let me see thy vengeance upon them, for to you have I committed my cause. Sing to the Lord; praise the Lord! For he has delivered the life of the needy from the hand of evildoers.
The Word of the Lord.
Responsorial psalm: Psalm 69:7-9.13 and 16.32-34
Let us now pray the Responsorial Psalm beginning and ending with the response:
R/: In your great mercy, answer me, O Lord.
It is for you that I suffer taunts,
that shame has covered my face.
To my own kin I have become an outcast,
a stranger to the children of my mother.
Zeal for your house consumes me,
and taunts against you fall on me.
But I pray to you, O Lord,
for a time of your favour.
In your great mercy, answer me, O God,
with your salvation that never fails.
Lord, answer, for your mercy is kind;
in your great compassion, turn towards me.
The poor when they see it will be glad,
and God-seeking hearts will revive;
for the Lord listens to the needy
and does not spurn his own in their chains.
Let the heavens and the earth give him praise,
The sea and everything that moves in them. R/:
Second reading: Romans 5:12-15
Introduction to the reading: Today and for many Sundays hereafter, our second reading will be taken from Paul’s letter to the Romans, which is his most detailed and important theological work. His purpose in this passage is not to teach about original sin, but to contrast Adam and Christ. From Adam we inherited a strong pull toward sin. From Christ (the new Adam) we receive a gift that is incomparably stronger: Divine grace.
A reading from the letter of Saint Paul to the Romans
Brethren: As sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all people because all people sinned – sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sins were not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come. But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many.
The Word of the Lord.
Alleluia, alleluia The Spirit of truth will bear witness to me, says the Lord, and you also are witnesses. Alleluia!
Gospel: Matthew 10:26-33
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew
At that time: Jesus said to his apostles, “Have no fear of them; for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the dark, utter in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim upon the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father’s will. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. So every one who acknowledges me before people, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven; but whoever denies me before people, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.
The Gospel of the Lord.
Reflection on the Readings
The leader reads the text prepared by the priest and leads the sharing.
A mother was tucking her small son to bed during a thunderstorm. Good cracking highveld thunderstorm, with lightning and the thunder causing the rooms to quiver – that kind of thunderstorm. Mum was about to turn off the lights and leave the room when the toddler looked up to her and said, “Mommy, will you sleep with me tonight?” In her most comforting voice, mother gave her little guy another hug and said, “I can’t dear. You know Mommy has to sleep with Daddy.” After a long silence, the child said in a shaky voice, “Yes, Daddy really is a sissy, isn’t he?” ☺
It is Fathers’ day – and our catechism youngsters have a wonderful surprise for our dads – have a look on our YouTube channel to see it!
Winter has arrived – freezingly cold week, bitter wind, rain on Tuesday – marvellous but cold. I am thinking with nostalgia about summers days.
It is day 87 of lockdown. With all the challenges and frustrations, with businesses closing, jobs lost , people unemployed and hungry and cold and our usual recreational haunts are closed. All about preventing the spread of coronavirus and as we approach 2000 deaths, it is about preventing as many deaths as possible.
Exciting news: The President has announced that there is an easing of restrictions on restaurants, accommodation, conferences, cinemas and theatres, some sports, personal care services, including hairdressers and beauty services. This means I can now get a haircut ☺.
There is hope but still lots of challenges. In the sense the scriptures for today match our mood. Initially, things still look bleak . Jeremiah – what do we say about him. He is God’s often-complaining, but nevertheless faithful prophet, But always faithful . Jeremiah laments what has befallen him for passing on God’s warning to Israel. His fidelity has resulted in, “Terror on every side,” denunciations, traps set and vengeance planned against him.
Jesus’ message in the gospel is also stark as he advises his disciples that some will even face death for him,
“And do not be afraid of those who kill the body, but cannot kill the soul….”
Easier said than done!
What was the situation at the time of Jeremiah? Jeremiah has spoken bitterly to God in past sections of this book and today’s passage is his fifth personal lament. Earlier he accused God of seducing him into being a prophet. He was called by God as a youth and preached for over 40 years. And the message he had to carry for God was a hard one to preach and a hard one for the people to hear. He warned the people of Judah that their infidelity to God would cause their ruin. He preached against Judah’s idolatry; his message was strong, uncompromising and thus, unpopular. His fidelity to God and God’s message has put him in disfavor with the people and Pashur, the chief temple official, and so, Jeremiah is imprisoned and disgraced.
But his warnings come true – the country falls, Jerusalem and the temple are destroyed and the leading citizens are taken to exile.
Jeremiah stays in the ruined Jerusalem, but eventually he is driven out and killed, probably by his own people. Although he sees the fruition of his prophetic utterances, the nation is destroyed, he still does not see God’s “vengeance” on the evildoers. He will not live to see God’s vindication and rescue of the people. But he will speak about it later in this book.
And during the people’s exile, his words will bring comfort to those awaiting the transformation and rescue God will perform for the people. He promises that God will raise them up and will do even more, he promises God will create a new heart in them, the heart of a faithful people.
We can ask for ourselves today in South Africa – What would that “new heart” look like for us after our history of racial tension and violence in our country? Can God create this “new heart” out all this mess, estrangement and conflict – not only for us individuals, but for our nation?
There is a parallel in this reading to those who hear a call from God, undertake it and, with trust, suffer trials in the fulfillment of their vocation. We never really know what we are getting into when we respond to God’s call. At first it may even have excitement and romance about it. But to fulfill a vocation and to remain faithful and trusting during the tough moments – this is only possible with God.
You can tell that the prophet Jeremiah experiences this blessing, even at his lowest moments. Jeremiah doesn’t just plod along, head down, struggling to get through. Rather, he knows that God is with him and so, the reading ends with a prayer of praise to the God who keeps faithful to the poor. Jeremiah has not yet seen the fulfillment of God’s promises and so he must live in the hope that someday God’s word to them will be fulfilled.
Today is Father’s Day and maybe there is something of the prophet Jeremiah in a good father. Fatherhood is certainly a vocation and it requires long and consistent fidelity to the task. In the beginning there is great joy and rejoicing. That joy will continue, but fatherhood also entails sacrifice, constant love, courage, hard work and wisdom. There are times a father must speak the hard truths to his children. Times when he must hold to integrity even when it runs counter to the prevailing culture. His own children may not appreciate what he is doing at the time. He can feel unpopular in his own family. Being a good father is a task that takes many years to fulfill. Some fathers may never see their work completed, but doing their best, they must trust God’s presence, even when they are not sure how successful they have been in their vocation as fathers.
In our consumerist and materialistic world, we are surrounded by salespeople. Usually a salesperson pitches a product in optimistic tones: the most comfortable car; the best-cleaning vacuum cleaner; the most powerful stain remover; the fastest computer, etc. Today we hear Jesus talking to newly-chosen apostles, but instead of promising them a glory ride and pie-in-the-sky, – the very best career path we have Jesus talking about sufferings and fear-raising situations in their ministry. Throughout today’s gospel there are sprinkled words to the twelve about not being afraid. – not being afraid.
What might they fear?
They are not to be afraid because of the small, seeming insignificance of their project in the light of the world powers around them. In our modern world of high speed internet access, multi- million rand television commercials and high society influencers, living out our faith in Christ can make us feel drowned out and overridden and insignificant.
Judging from the more dominant voices and forces around us, our Christian approach to life can seem without influence as the world makes decisions that affect the destinies of present and future populations – and of the planet itself.
Jesus promises his message will be “proclaimed on the housetops.”
Jesus predicts a sign by which we will know we are being faithful to him. When we are standing on his side of honesty, concern, forgiveness, trust, community, etc, we will stir up opposition and strife. A good example this week: there is an Archbishop called Carlo Vigano and he is making big news in the USA because of his letter that he wrote to Donald Trump. He said that the coronavirus pandemic and the George Floyd riots are a part of the eternal spiritual struggle between the forces of good and evil. It is sad that a crazy person like Vigano gets so much news coverage. He gets that coverage because he opposes the work that Pope Francis is doing to fix the mess in the church caused by the coverup of the sex abuse scandals. Pope Francis has the courage sort out the mess and gets opposition from people scared of the truth. We need to pray for Pope Francis as he battles the forces who want to harm the Body of Christ, the Church.
Just as Jesus found resistance to his teaching, so will his followers. So he tells them, “And do not be afraid of those who kill the body…,” for they have power, but only over the body. God’s power is more sweeping and total. But the disciples are not to fear, because God cares about each of us and every part of us, right down to the hairs on our heads. If even birds fall under God’s care, how much more do we?
This reminder about God’s care for us isn’t a guarantee we will have an easy ride as God’s servants. Jeremiah has already voiced the feelings of abandonment, disappointment and dismay one might feel in the face of the rejection God’s witnesses often experience. Pope Francis faces the challenge of an element in the world trying to stop his work of renewal.
Jesus uses the example of sparrows falling and dying, but also of God’s concern for them, to reassure us that in the face of trials and even death, God will care for us.
Jesus is not going to leave us alone, and more – he will not exempt himself from our struggles. He says he will “acknowledge” us before God. When the going gets tough, he is right in the thick of things with us.
Jeremiah said, I hear the whisperings of many…. “All those who were my friends are on the watch for any misstep of mine. ‘Perhaps he will be trapped; then we can prevail and take our vengeance on him.’ But the Lord is with me, like a mighty champion; my persecutors will stumble, they will not triumph.”
- Can you identify with Jeremiah? Do you feel overburdened by responsibilities, or that your good deeds are misunderstood even by those closest to you? Do you sometimes want to shake your fist at God and shout, “What have you gotten me into?!”
However, Jeremiah turns to the God, who called him and to whom Jeremiah first said, “Yes.” He prays a prayer of thanksgiving. How bold he is! He is anticipating God’s coming to help him even before he has proof of it. That’s “Jeremiah-faith.”
- Have you ever prayed a prayer of complaint to God because of what was happening in your life? How did it feel to pray so boldly? And how did you feel after you prayed that way?
Prayer of the Faithful
Leader: My brothers and sisters, let us bring our prayers to God our Father.
We pray for Pope Francis and the bishops: (pause) that they will not be overcome by fear but will lead the Church courageously.
LORD HEAR US
We pray for a spirit of reverence: (pause)
that our goals for life may be based on the awareness that all life is a gift from God and should lead us toward an ever-deepening relationship with God.
LORD HEAR US
We pray for all fathers and those who have shown us a father’s love: (pause)
that God will grant them good health, guide them in being good examples, and help them to be a source of encouragement to their children.
LORD HEAR US
We pray for all who have experienced or who live under the threat of violence, whether from neighborhood turmoil, organized crime, terrorism, or armed conflict: that they will know God’s strengthening presence and redeeming love.
LORD HEAR US
We pray for all who are researching treatments and vaccines for dangerous illnesses, especially Covid-19: (pause) that God will guide and inspire their work so that life can be preserved.
LORD HEAR US
We pray for members of our families and friends who have died and those whose anniversaries occur about this time, especially for: Olga, Gabriel and the Joseph family, Oscar de Andrade, Eduardo Figueira, Italo Barone and deceased members of Maher family
LORD HEAR US
We pray for all who have died this week, especially those with the Covid-19 virus.
Eternal rest grant unto them O Lord.
All: And let perpetual light shine on them.
May they rest in peace. Amen.
Leader: Let us pray our prayer for the Fifth Anniversary of Laudato si:
Creator of Heaven, Earth, and all therein contained.
Open our minds and touch our hearts,
so that we can be part of Creation, your gift.
Be present to those in need in these difficult times,
especially the poorest and most vulnerable.
Help us to show creative solidarity
as we confront the consequences of the global pandemic.
Make us courageous in embracing
the changes required to seek the common good.
Now more than ever, may we all feel interconnected and interdependent.
Enable us to succeed in listening and responding
to the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor.
May their current sufferings become the birth-pangs
of a more fraternal and sustainable world.
We pray through Christ our Lord,
under the loving gaze of Mary Help of Christians,
Leader: On this Fathers’ Day, let us pray for all the dads in our parish.
God our Father,
In your wisdom and love you have created us
and called us your own.
We pray for these men,
that they may be strengthened as Christian fathers.
Let the example of their faith and love shine forth.
In moments of joy, rejoice with them.
In times of struggle, give them your courage and perseverance.
We pray for young fathers, newly embracing their vocation;
May they find courage and perseverance to balance work, family and faith in joy and sacrifice.
We pray for men who are not fathers but still mentor and guide us with fatherly love and advice.
We remember fathers, grandfather, and great grandfathers who are no longer with us but who live forever in our memory and nourish us with their love.
May the example and prayer of St. Joseph inspire them
to live their vocation with courage.
Grant this through Christ our Lord.
We can unite ourselves to the Eucharist through making a spiritual Communion.
By making an Act of Spiritual Communion, we express our faith in Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist and ask him to unite himself with us.
I believe you are really here in the Blessed Sacrament.
I love you more than anything in the world, and I hunger to receive you.
But since I cannot receive Communion at this moment,
feed my soul at least spiritually.
I unite myself to you now as I do when I actually receive you.
Leader: Let us pray to the Father in the words Jesus our Saviour gave us:
All say: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.
Leader: Grant, O Lord,
that we may always revere and love your holy name,
for you never deprive of your guidance
those you set firm on the foundation of your love.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
A leader who is a layperson, using no gesture, says:
Leader: May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil and bring us to everlasting life.
Instrumental music may be played or a hymn may be sung.