June 25, 2017 — Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time
There is a consistency in today’s readings that might be considered the norm. Many Catholics may say they do not regularly read the Bible, but Holy Scripture, all of which comes from the Bible, is something we hear at every Catholic Mass. Scripture has always played an important role in the prayer life of the Church and of its members. For many centuries the exposure to Scripture for Catholics was passive — that is, they heard it but they did not read it. There were two reasons for that: 1. Many could not read; and 2. The average person did not/could not own a book.
Since the invention of the printing press, were you aware the most commonly-printed book was the Bible? It seemed the custom of reading and interpreting the Bible was a Protestant practice. All that changed in 1943 when Pope Pius XII issued his encyclical Divino Afflante Spiritu, which encouraged Catholics to study Scripture more carefully.
Holy Scripture is rich with meaning for us. Our First Reading today comes from the prophet Jeremiah. Like many prophets Jeremiah lived more than 600 years before the birth of Christ. Just prior to today’s readings Jeremiah laments all the trouble he has experienced because of God’s call for him to prophesy and proclaim His Word. He also states that as much as he would prefer not to proclaim God’s Word (Jeremiah 20: 9) there came in his heart “as a burning fire” that Word. Does that not sound similar to what the two followers of Jesus expressed after meeting Him on the road to Emmaus? “Did not our hearts burn within us?”
We are blessed with the Word of God regularly at Mass. Do we listen? Do we hear it? Do we find meaning in it and try to use it in the way we live? That is what we should do. In spite of his misgivings and regardless of his fears, Jeremiah knew that he was called to proclaim. Each of us a similar calling, but to fulfill that, we must make the effort to understand and to absorb Holy Scripture as presented to us.
St. Paul is believed to have penned his letter to the Romans while he was in Corinth. Although Paul desired to go to Rome, he had not as yet done so. However, he knew that the Church was growing in Rome as it was elsewhere. This particular epistle of Paul is his longest, and perhaps his most detailed theological treatise. This particular passage addresses the issue of sin. As uncomfortable as it may be for us, we need to understand that we were born sinners. Jesus atoned for our sins, but we need to spend our lives also striving to eliminate sin from our lives and acknowledging our sins through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
Every one of us will die. That is a sign of sin — earthly mortality. Yet Jesus offered us a way to eternal life through His sacrifice and death. It is up to us to accept and live with that. It is up to us to respond as disciples of Christ in reaction to that. It is up to us to live our lives as good stewards as part of our discipleship.
So many times in Scripture Jesus makes it clear to us what we are called to do. In today’s Gospel from St. Matthew He states, “What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light.” It would seem that is a call to us to explain Holy Scripture, His Words, by showing others exactly what they mean, and the best way to do that is in how we live our lives. It is not that the Lord speaks to us truly “in darkness,” but unless we hear His Word and take it to heart we are not speaking “in light.” Jesus assures us that if we, like Jeremiah, have confidence in Him, our rewards will be beyond imagination. It is easy in this secular world to yield to temptation (sin) and it is equally easy to rationalize away the fact that we are Christians and we are called to demonstrate that and proclaim it in our lives.
Yet the Lord assures us, “Everyone who acknowledges me before others I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father.” Being a Catholic and being a Christian is not an easy task. Jesus never said it would be easy. But we need to truly understand that our perspective is beyond this world. That is what it means to be a follower and a disciple of Christ.