Homily, 12th Sunday of the Year, Cycle A

Homily, 12th Sunday of the Year, Cycle A

Fear Produces Persecution; Persecution Produces Fear.

Jeremiah 20:10-13
Psalm 68:8-10,14,17,33-35
Romans 5:12-15
Matthew 10:26-33

Love and fear are two important forces that rule the world. All actions are somehow connected with fear and love.

A poor little bird on the tree saw below a cobra watching him closely. The bird was terrified and did not move. It was so overcome with fright, it could not move. It sat there for a very long time without food and drink. It was almost paralyzed. After a long time, it fell unconscious to the ground and became prey to the cobra.


This is exactly what plays along with regards to faith, righteousness, persecution and fear. Fear is a disposition put into us by tyrants who compels our obedience through threats of harm, or harm itself. Infact, it binds together all the three readings.

The light of God, which is the light of faith and righteousness disturbs those who prefer to live in darkness, on the floor and they become afraid of change and what they might loose such that they inevitably react by opposition and persecution. With persecution, those living in the light of God, of faith and thus of righteousness in turn might become afraid; fear. The bird on the tree became a trait to be eliminated by the cobra on the ground which was afraid of loosing the food; the bird.

Thus, in the first reading Jeremiah 20:10-13, the prophet suffered such. The prophet Jeremiah lived at a very sad period of his people, when King of Babylon had overrun almost the whole territory of Israel and the Capital was about to fall. But, the the religious leaders kept repeating, “Everything is all right, no evil will befall you” (Jeremiah 6:13-14), while everything was collapsing. They were on the ground by living and proclaiming in such a lie. Today, the case hasn’t been much different, but who would stand on and speak the truth courageously?

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny?

On obedience to God’s word of truth, Jeremiah went up to the capital and in front of the temple, accuses the authorities of deceiving and tricking and thus spoke the truth, “I see terror approaching; terror from every side!” Consequently, almost all turned against him with the vilest persecution; his best friends included because of his faithfulness to God; to the truth. The leaders imprisoned him, beat him up and threw him into a muddy cistern. Was it not the fear of the outcome of the truth that all went against Jeremiah? Was Jeremiah afraid because of the persecution? No, he persisted and wasn’t afraid just like Jesus would admonish three times in the gospel.
In the gospel Matthew 10:26-33, Jesus knew exactly of the outplay between fear, faith, righteousness and persecution so well. He was there in the beginning, and through the time of Jeremiah, he saw all because through him, all things were made (John 1:3). He knew what the weak humanity could lead to and do.

In fact, Jesus knows that fear is the worst possible enemy of those who want to announce the Gospel of righteousness, truth and love, the fear of losing one’s social position or respect of one’s superior, or the fear of loosing one’s possession, or of being ill-treated or even killed, that’s why he repeats “Do not be afraid three times”( Matt 20:26,28,31). Hope you still remembered the Prophet Jeremiah in the first reading? It actually didn’t start today and won’t end with us neither.

However, Jesus was insistent because he knew that people who are afraid are not free, they loose focus and forget what power lies within. Don’t you remember that poor bird on the tree that lost his freedom because of the fear of the cobra below the tree. Fear took away all capacity to think. The bird could easily fly to a safe place and save herself, but she didn’t know that there was so much power within her.

Thus, Jesus knew that when fear of persecution grips us, we could easily forget the power of truth and righteousness in the Gospel and so instead of tapping from such innate power, we become so paralyzed that we focus on the persecution and fall prey to our persecutors. He knew that the persecutors are actually acting out of fear of lose and change. Such fear produces persecution in their actions.

The power of truth and righteousness in the Gospel includes God’s protection of those who remain faithful(Matt 10:29-31), because He cares that we are doing His work. This doesn’t mean only a particular form of physical protection, or only saved by miracles but that the truth and righteousness which they held unto shall triumph at last. That explains well why Jesus talked about those who acknowledged him fearlessly, presenting a true picture of him; of truth(Matt. 10:32-33).

God decides, he brings triumph of the faithful even through persecution and even immortalizes the remembrance of faithful because it’s only He who can destroy the soul and the body(Matt. 10: 28)
Jeremiah was living in this reality of truth, and was instead never afraid(20:11-13), just like many of us would have been living in fear and thus shrink from truth and righteousness. Jesus and the apostles followed the same path, but what about us who follow Christ Jesus and answer the Apostolic Church? Part of being apostolic is being courageous in the face of persecution like the apostles.

What about you the student who is teased by his colleagues because you follow the righteous path in relating with girls with respect? You the student who relate with boys with purity? or You the trader who refuses to skim off illegal profits because you are against dishonesty? What about you whose families have turned their backs on because you have abandoned the old traditions of Osu, of visiting witch doctors in the name of native doctors, of hating the enemy but loving, etc? Are you still courageous?

They shall always tell you that “I stand alone” is a bad name, but we must remember that righteousness and truth is not always determined or known by number like Jeremiah, Jesus and the Apostles.
The truth is that it’s difficult and sometimes dangerous to say the truth, and live righteous life. It’s risky to be the first to raise one’s voice against injustice. It’s certainly easier to remain in the safety of one’s house or flee into hiding, or to avoid problems by pretending not to see them, or to let others speak out. But as Christians, we must be aware that wherever truth is spoken, one bears testimony to Jesus, the truth and Jesus always stand by such a fellow, and otherwise is like disowning Jesus (Matt 10: 32-33).
Moreover, if today the world is a bit better, if people enjoy freedom, if human rights are more respected, it is due to the sacrifice of people like Jeremiah, Jesus, Apostles, saints, Martyrs etc, who have the courage to stand up, act and speak out no matter the persecution.

For sin to progress is because many of us live in fear of being persecuted and thus Paul in the second reading Romans 5:12-15, “confirms that in the struggle between good and evil, good will always triumph” if there are those faithful and courageous to bear testimony to the truth.

Nevertheless, as the Lord in his great mercy answers the faithful, we must remember to add love to our courageous testimony because love in our minds produces love in our action and that is heaven, which disarms the persecutor unlike fear arms the persecutor. Love conquers all things.

Fr. Henry Charles Umelechi

Truth Series

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