June 22: Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A
Readings: Jeremiah 20:10-13; Romans 5:12-15; Matthew 10:26-33
Terror on every side, denunciation, bearing insults, fear no one: those phrases help to focus more on the message of this Sunday readings. In early 1980s, there is a person who was denounced, threatened with death, insulted but was never afraid to die. He continued to witness to the Lord until a bullet at the altar silenced him. Archbishop Romero of Salvador was the person. On March 24, 1980, while celebrating the Eucharist, he was shot and killed at the altar by a death squad assassin, paying the highest price for the commitment about which he spoke so eloquently. Archbishop Romero was a person who never feared to die because of his hope. Shortly before he was murdered, Romero had said: "It is my hope that my blood will be the seed of freedom and the sign that hope will soon be reality." The example of Romero's courageous life and ultimately his death, continue to inspire those who struggle for human dignity and justice. Some of his words show us clearly that his faith in the resurrection inspired him to take a stand and never be afraid. “I have frequently been threatened with death. I must say that, as a Christian, I do not believe in death but in the resurrection. If they kill me, I shall rise again in the Salvadoran people."
In the First Reading, Jeremiah though surrounded by threat from every side, believes that the Lord will not abandon him. The words of Psalm 69 are a prayer of the faithful servant who suffers insults with great hope in the Lord. The Gospel passage of this Sunday gives us those re-assuring words of Christ, "Do not be afraid". Do not be afraid to speak and to proclaim the Gospel clearly and in the open, because Christ is always near those who witness to his name; those who dare to challenge the darkness of this world by speaking out the truth of the Gospel. Jesus re-assures us that we must not be afraid of death or being martyred for his sake. We are assured that if we witness before the world, Christ will witness for us before the Father. "So there is no need to be afraid", Jesus tells us. These words inspired Félicité, a Rwandan woman and her friends, in April 1994. As the militia truck picked them up, she told her friends: "The time has come to bear witness. Come!" The militia then led them away to be shot at a mass grave singing and praying. Archbishop Romero, Felicity with other Rwandan women followed the example of Christ who was never afraid to die for our sake. In our Christian life we are challenged to do the same. We are challenged to bear witness to the Gospel under very difficulty conditions. It is at such moments as these that we must recall these comforting words. "Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul". The message of this Sunday may be summed in three points: 1) Jesus re-assures us that we must not be afraid to die for his sake.; 2) Christ also re-assures his presence in those who dare to challenge the darkness of this world by speaking out the truth of the Gospel; 3) Just as Archbishop Romero and Felicity died to give witness to Christ’s resurrection, we too are challenged to do no less.
©2008 John M. Mbinda