Jeremiah said: “I hear the whisperings of many: ‘Terror on every side! Denounce! let us denounce him!’ 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. In their failure they will be put to utter shame, to lasting, unforgettable confusion. O LORD of hosts, you who test the just, who probe mind and heart, let me witness the vengeance you take on them, for to you I have entrusted my cause. Sing to the LORD, praise the LORD, for he has rescued the life of the poor from the power of the wicked!”
1) For your sake I bear insult, and shame covers my face.
I have become an outcast to my brothers, a stranger to my children,
Because zeal for your house consumes me, and the insults of those who blaspheme you fall upon me. (Refrain:)
2) I pray to you, O Lord, for the time of your favor, O God!
In your great kindness answer me with your constant help.
Answer me, O Lord, for bounteous is your kindness; in your great mercy turn toward me. (Refrain:)
3) "See, you lowly ones, and be glad; you who seek God, may your hearts revive!
For the Lord hears the poor, and his own who are in bonds he spurns not.
Let the heavens and the earth praise him, the seas and whatever moves in them!" (Refrain:)
Brothers and sisters: Through one man sin entered the world, and through sin, death, and thus death came to all men, inasmuch as all sinned— for up to the time of the law, sin was in the world, though sin is not accounted when there is no law. But death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who did not sin after the pattern of the trespass of Adam, who is the type of the one who was to come. But the gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, how much more did the grace of God and the gracious gift of the one man Jesus Christ overflow for the many.
Jesus said to the Twelve: “Fear no one. Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret that will not be known. What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light; what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna. Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge. Even all the hairs of your head are counted. So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. Everyone who acknowledges me before others I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father. But whoever denies me before others, I will deny before my heavenly Father.”
(Copyright 1970, 1986, 1992, 1998, 2001 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc. Washington D.C. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by an information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.
Copyright 1970, 1997, 1998 Contraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc. Washington, D.C. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by an information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.
The English translation of some Psalm responses, some Alleluia and Gospel verses and the Lenten Gospel Acclamations, some Summaries, and the Titles and Conclusion of the Readings, from the Lectionary for Mass copyright 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc., Washington D.C. All rights reserved.
The poetic English translation of the sequences of the Roman Missal are taken from the Roman Missal approved by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops of the United States, copyright 1964 by the National Catholic Welfare Conference, Inc. All rights reserved. Used with permission of ICEL.)
by John Thomas Oaks
It was chilly in Manhattan but warm inside the Starbucks shop on 51st Street and Broadway, just a skip up from Times Square. For a musician, it's the most lucrative Starbucks location in the world, I'm told, and consequently, the tips can be substantial if you play your tunes right.
I was playing keyboard and singing backup for my friend who also added rhythm with an arsenal of percussion instruments. During our emotional rendition of "If You Don't Know Me by Now," I noticed a lady sitting in one of the lounge chairs across from me. She was swaying to the beat and singing along.
After the tune was over, she approached me. "I apologize for singing along on that song. Did it bother you?" she asked.
"No," I replied. "We love it when the audience joins in. Would you like to sing up front on the next selection?" To my delight, she accepted my invitation.
"You choose," I said. "What are you in the mood to sing?"
"Well ... do you know any hymns?"
Hymns? This woman didn't know who she was dealing with. I cut my teeth on hymns. Before I was even born, I was going to church. I gave our guest singer a knowing look. "Name one."
"Oh, I don't know. There are so many good ones. You pick one."
"Okay," I replied. "How about His Eye is on the Sparrow?"
My new friend was silent, her eyes averted. Then she fixed her eyes on mine again and said, "Yeah. Let's do that one."
She slowly nodded her head, put down her purse, straightened her jacket and faced the center of the shop. With my two-bar setup, she began to sing.
- "Why should I be discouraged?
Why should the shadows come?"
The audience of coffee drinkers was transfixed.
- "I sing because I'm happy;
I sing because I'm free.
For His eye is on the sparrow
And I know He watches me."
When the last note was sung, the applause crescendoed to a deafening roar. Embarrassed, the woman tried to shout over the din: "Oh, y'all go back to your coffee! I didn't come in here to do a concert! I just came in here to get somethin' to drink, just like you!" But the ovation continued.
I embraced my new friend. "You, my dear, have made my whole year! That was beautiful!"
"It's funny that you picked that particular hymn," she said.
"Why is that?"
She hesitated again, "That was my daughter's favorite song." She grabbed my hands. By this time, the applause had subsided and it was business as usual. "She was 16. She died of a brain tumor last week."
I said the first thing that found its way through my silence. "Are you going to be okay?"
She smiled through tear-filled eyes and squeezed my hands. "I'm gonna be okay. I've just got to keep trusting the Lord and singing his songs, and everything's gonna be just fine."
She picked up her bag, gave me her card, and then she was gone.
Was it just a coincidence that we happened to be singing in that particular coffee shop on that particular November night? Coincidence that this wonderful lady just happened to walk into that particular shop? Coincidence that of all the hymns to choose from, I just happened to pick the very hymn that was the favorite of her daughter, who had died just the week before? I refuse to believe it.
God has been arranging encounters in human history since the beginning of time, and it's no stretch for me to imagine that He could reach into a coffee shop in midtown Manhattan and turn an ordinary gig into a revival.
It was a great reminder that if we keep trusting Him and singing His songs, everything's gonna be okay.
In today's gospel passage, our Lord instructs his new disciples to have no fear and does so three times in this short passage. He tells the disciples first of all that they should not be afraid of what others can do to them. He explains this by saying that "Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed, and nothing hidden that will not become known." His meaning here is that the truth will eventually win out in any situation. For example, consider St. Joan of Arc. Although she was put to death for what she did, she was exonerated after her death when her true intentions became known and her prophecies came true. She went from being castigated, and burned as a witch and a heretic, to sainthood.
Then our Lord tells the disciples "What I tell you in darkness, speak in the light. What you hear in private, proclaim from the housetops." What I believe our Lord is stressing in the first part of each of these sentences is that his disciples must set aside time for prayer.
Once they have done this, our Lord tells the disciples to give witness to what they have learned by speaking the word with boldness and by proclaiming it "from the housetops". What we need to remember here is that there were no billboards at that time, no public address systems, printing presses or any of the methods of communication to which we have become so accustomed. In the days of our Lord, houses had flat roofs which served as areas for drying straw, working and relaxing. And when there was some news of great import which one wanted to spread through the community (for example, the birth of a new child), it was shouted from the housetops so that everyone could hear. And it was shouted enthusiastically.
Secondly, our Lord tells them to have no fear of those who can destroy someone's body. He assures them that God will take care of them, just as he cares for the lowly sparrow.
And lastly, our Lord sums up all he has told his disciples by telling them that they should have no fear of anything. If they have no fear of those who could take away their mortal bodies, then they really should have no fear of anything. And besides, they are all valuable in the eyes of God and he will not let them perish.
So what does this passage have to tell us? First of all, I'm sure there have been times in your life, as there have been in mine, when you have been judged unfairly or treated unjustly and you feel powerless to correct the situation or to change someone's opinion. At times like these, we must have faith that in due time, the truth will come out, as it has so often in the past.
Secondly, we must set aside some quiet time in prayer to reflect on what is happening in our lives and discern what the Spirit is telling us. We cannot speak and live the truth if we have not listened to what our Lord has to tell us in the privacy of our hearts. And if we have spent any time at all with the Scriptures, the bottom-line message they have to give us, as today's gospel so clearly tells us, is that God cares deeply for each one of us. Enough to send his only Son to suffer and die for us so that we may attain eternal life with him.
And once we have realized this unconditional love of God for us, we should proclaim it from the housetops, that is, with enthusiasm. The word enthusiasm comes from two Greek words (en and theos) meaning "to have God within". If we have the Spirit of God within us through our prayer, then we will have faith when times are difficult and we will have no fear of anything. And since we know that God cares deeply for us, we must share that love with those around us also.
I think the following story speaks well about caring for the "least of our brethren" and living life with enthusiasm.
- I remember golf when it was played B.C. (before carts). I was caddie master at a busy club. One morning, a gentleman asked me if I could use another caddie. He said he had a nineteen-year-old son with special needs who was strong and healthy. "The boy knows nothing about golf," the gentleman said, "but I'm sure he can be taught how to caddie." The man's son, named Happy, had never been to school nor had any training. (Back then, there were no special education programs.)
As expected, some people did not want Happy to caddie for them. Many days, he could not get out. I explained this to his father as tactfully as possible, but his dad was just grateful that Happy could be part of a normal activity and make a few dollars each week.
Then one day, a group of ladies who played regularly invited a newcomer as their guest. Mrs. Wentworth was her name. Because it was a busy day, only four caddies were left, including Happy. He was assigned to Mrs. Wentworth. When the ladies finished their round, the newcomer reported that she had been very pleased with Happy. She added that she planned to play more often and requested that I reserve Happy for her. When I explained this to Happy, he was more than happy!
Every day he would wait in the caddie yard next to the parking lot. He eagerly watched as each car arrived at the club. When he would recognize Mrs. Wentworth's car, he became as excited as a child. "Here comes my lady!" he would proudly tell the other caddies.
As long as I was caddie master there, only Happy caddied for Mrs. Wentworth. She routinely tipped him twenty-five cents, a hefty sum in those days. I often wondered why Mrs. Wentworth so wholeheartedly accepted this young man. She made him feel that he was important; he could do as fine a job as the other caddies. I think she saw something in him that so many others had missed.
I went into the service in mid-summer that year and lost touch with Happy, Mrs. Wentworth and others at the club for four years. After my stint in the Army, I returned to my hometown and visited the club. When I inquired of a friend who worked at the club about Happy, he told me that the young man had continued to caddie for Mrs. Wentworth regularly, never losing his enthusiasm. He also said that Happy did not live to reach twenty-one. He had died of a respiratory illness associated with his particular form of disability. My friend said that Happy was not only mourned by his father; his absence had left a void in the lives of Mrs. Wentworth and others at the club. He added that although Mrs. Wentworth continued to play golf, she often remarked that there would never be another Happy.
Though it was a long time ago, I'll always remember Happy and his lady. I think about how he put his heart and soul into that job. Perhaps Mrs. Wentworth was just being kind. Or maybe she saw in him that part of the human spirit that cannot help but soar, when given the chance. (1)
Mrs. Wentworth treated Happy with love and respect and made him feel important even when many others didn't. God cares for each of us the same way, with an unconditional love that looks beyond our shortcomings and sin to the person that resides deep within each one of us. When life is not treating us fairly, we need to recall that God has loved us from the beginning of time. And we need to respond to that love the way that Happy returned "his lady's" love: with an enthusiasm that knew no bounds.
To sum up, as Christ's disciples, we are called to have faith that the truth will win out in the end no matter what the circumstances. We are called to spend time in prayer each day so that the Spirit may speak to us in the depths of our hearts. And what we will learn from this time spent with God's word is that God cares deeply for each one of us. Once we have learned this, we are called to spread the news of God's deep, abiding love with enthusiasm. This is my prayer for you today: that the love of God will fill your heart and that you will speak and live the word with boldness and enthusiasm.
1. Happy, copyright 1998 by David Field. Reprinted with permission from Chicken Soup for the Golfer's Soul, copyright 1999 by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Jeff Aubery and Mark and Chrissy Donnelly. Health Communications, Inc., Deerfield Beach, FL.
(Copyright 2014 by the Spirit through Deacon Sil Galvan with a little help from the friends noted above. Permission is freely granted for use, in whole or in part, in oral presentations. For permission to use in writing, please contact the human intermediary at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Lord Jesus, you call us to have faith that the truth will always be made known. Lord, have mercy.
Christ Jesus, you call us to speak in the light what we hear in darkness. Christ, have mercy.
Lord Jesus, you call us proclaim from the housetops what we hear in private. Lord, have mercy.
Celebrant: Our Lord has assured us that we are worth more than an entire flock of sparrows. Therefore, confident that he will intercede for us in our need, we bring our prayers and petitions to the Father.
Deacon/Lector: Our response is "Lord, hear our prayer".
That the leaders of the Church will care for their flocks as God cares for his sparrows, we pray to the Lord.
That the peoples of the nations of the world will put aside their differences and learn to live in peace, we pray to the Lord.
That the sick, the elderly and those who are grieving the loss of a loved one will come to know the healing care of their Creator, we pray to the Lord.
That the members of our parish community will be examples of faith in their homes, neighborhoods and workplaces, we pray to the Lord.
That all of those who have contracted the Corona virus will be healed, that those who have died will be welcomed into the loving arms of their Savior who suffered for them and that their grieving families will find strength in their faith, we pray to the Lord.
That children will honor their fathers and that fathers will in turn be models of love and respect for their families, we pray to the Lord.
That all fathers will love their families as God the Father has loved us, his children on earth, we pray to the Lord.
For all of the intentions which we hold in our hearts and which we now recall in silence. (Pause) For all of these intentions, we pray to the Lord.
Celebrant: Loving Father, not a single sparrow falls to the ground without your consent. Hear the prayers we bring before you and grant them through the intercession of Christ, your Son and Our Lord. Amen.