Twelfth Sunday of the Year Jeremiah 20: 10-13; Romans 5: 12-15; Matthew 10: 26-33
“Sin entered the world through one man, and through sin death, and thus death has spread through the whole human race because everyone has sinned.”
We tend to think of sin as the individual transgressions that betray God’s loving purpose in our lives. Our consciences rightly tell us that such actions render us strangers in the presence of God. St Paul reached beyond the individual, describing sin as a contagion with the power to corrupt and undermine the whole community. This is the original sin, the sin that entered the world through one man, spreading death to the whole human race. Whilst theologians struggle to elucidate what is meant by ‘original sin,’ we cannot deny its consequences that surround us all the time. Adam’s sin had consequences for all who followed. What I do has consequences not only for myself, but for all around me.
The rejection of the prophet Jeremiah can be described as an illustration of sin’s contagion. Jeremiah had been appointed by a loving God as a prophet to the nations. His was the unwelcome task of challenging the conscience of Israel, reminding a wayward people of the love that had called them into being and had delivered them from slavery.
“Denounce him! Let us denounce him! All those who used to be my friends watched for my downfall, ‘perhaps he will be seduced into error. Then we will master him and take our revenge.”
There is no denying the sinful pride that brought about Jeremiah’s denunciation. The enduring power of sin continues down the ages, and is illustrated in a stubborn resistance to the truth about ourselves. In recent weeks societies throughout the world have been confronted with the enduring consequences of slavery. Slavery is not past history, and continues to flourish in many different forms.
Jesus came into this world as the revelation of the Father’s eternal truth. He came not only to confront a sinful world, but to enable that world to overcome the power of sin. He enables us to confront the sin that is within us, to die to sin so as to be raised up in the power of his Holy Spirit. He invites us, with Jeremiah, to confront a sinful world. For us, as for Jeremiah and the Lord himself, this will bring its cost.
“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.”
Few of us are likely to be called to the witness of martyrdom. A more seductive temptation is to remain silent when gospel values are undermined and rejected. This too has its consequences.
“If anyone declares himself for me in the presence of men, I will declare myself for him in the presence of my Father. But the one who disowns me in the presence of men, I will disown in the presence of men.”
With humility let us acknowledge the truth about ourselves. Then we shall witness to his truth.