The first reading is about Jeremiah. He was a prophet. He spoke for God. We think, God called him; he was working for God. Lucky, he was a special friend of God. People honored and respected him, an easy life. NO, it did not happen! Jeremiah suffered a lot. In the beginning he did not want to be a prophet; he thought, “I am too shy; I cannot speak right; I am a person always afraid.” God said, ”No, I want you. I tell you my will and you explain my will to the people.” God’s words were always warning, telling the people, “Your behavior has to improve; you must be honest and just. Care for poor people. Don’t take advantage of the poor. Respect them; be just! If you do not obey God’s will, then your enemies will come and destroy you.” Jeremiah preached God’s word; he explained God’s will. The poor people liked it; they supported Jeremiah. Some powerful politicians knew Jeremiah was right and supported him. But many of the rich and powerful people hated Jeremiah; his words, they hated; his warnings, they hated. They told Jeremiah, “Be quiet. You are upsetting the people, stop. We do not have to change. The Lord will protect us, he will. God promised we are his people always. He promised to protect us. His temple, His holy place is here. Nothing bad will happen to us.” Jeremiah obeyed God; he told the people God’s will, and he suffered. His enemies insulted him; they beat him and threw him in jail. He suffered a lot.
Jeremiah spoke God’s words and explained God’s will, and Jeremiah was right. The rich and the powerful people did not change; they continued taking advantage of the poor, cheating and stealing. And the enemy’s soldiers came and overcame the people, destroyed the temple and the city, killed many, led many to become slaves. Some escaped and forced Jeremiah to go with them to Egypt, and there they probably killed him.
Jeremiah’s story shows that doing God’s will and speaking God’s words continuously, being faithful is not always easy. But Jeremiah knew he was doing the right thing; he spoke honestly and accepted the suffering.
In the gospel, Jesus talks to people, who? They are going to preach the message of Jesus to others. (To see the words of today’s gospel, click here.) Jesus says, “Many people will oppose you, be against you. But do not be afraid. Fear no one. You can fear one person; the person can send you to hell, who is it? It is God. Be afraid only of God. God only can destroy you; no one else. Know God’s will and do God’s will the best you can, follow God’s plan for you. And you will be safe. Do not be afraid. God is with you.”
Why should a person be confident, not afraid, trust God, why? Jesus gives some examples. A little bird, the cheapest bird to buy for eating. It falls and dies; God knows, why? God made that little bird, loved the bird and helped it live and have a full life. It dies; God knows. Something beautiful is gone. You are much more important than little birds. Know God loves you and cherishes you and cares for you.
A little off the point: remember God cares for all things in nature, everything in the world. God made each thing, each animal, each tree, each flower, each fish. God made it and respects it and God cherishes it. This means we must respect everything God makes, respect everything in nature; everything shows us some of God’s beauty. All are God’s wonderful gifts to us. We must accept responsibility for nature and the world, and do all we can to protect our world and not let climate change become worse; let that happen, we can’t.
Another example, Jesus says again, “Do not be afraid; God cares for you; God is close to you. How close? God knows how many hairs you have on your head. God can count all the hairs on your head, he can.” Imagine God is busy with all that is happening in the world, trying to fix things, helping to improve the world; but He knows you so well and cherishes you so much, he counts the hairs on your head. To count my hairs is easy, but some of you have so much hair; no matter, God knows how many are your hairs, why? God wants to help you know God is very close with you.
Jesus wants to explain: “Do not worry, do not be afraid; God cares for you, loves you so very much.” Now with the virus we are all still a little afraid, nervous; we don’t know the future, what will happen. We are worried about becoming sick; maybe money is tight. Maybe we feel overwhelmed or worried too much. Remember Jesus’s words, “You are worth more than a little bird; God counts the hair on your head. God cares for you; be brave. Find strength, where? In yourself? No, find strength in God’s loving embrace.
Let me tell you a story: A woman with cancer began chemotherapy. Every morning she combed her hair and more hair came off her head; more hair was on her brush. One morning she looked in the mirror and saw the few hairs she had left. She could count the hair still on her head. But strangely she felt a deep peace. She remembered Jesus’s words that God could count her hairs. Easy now, so few; but she thought, “God has counted my hairs since I was born. God counts the few hairs now.” In this deep peace she felt God’s love embracing her, how? In the love of her family and friends; all suffered with her and supported her. She said, “In the quiet peace I understood that God knew how many hairs were on my brush, in the sink, still on my head. God knew me fully and my future was in his hands.” She was still afraid and worried about the cancer, the chemotherapy, the future of her illness. But she understood, no matter what happened, God, God’s strength, God’s love, God would be with her through all that might happen.
Jesus says the same to you and me. “Do not be afraid. I am with you. God the Father knows you and loves you and cares for you. Jesus the Lord, I know you and love you and care for you.”