“Terror on every side!” That’s the opening of this Sunday’s first reading. And the opening for the Gospel? “Fear no one,” Jesus says. The journey from terror to fearlessness is the story of this week’s readings.
by Jerry Windley-Daoust
“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.
Lord, in your great love, answer me.
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,
“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.”
You can read the full text of this Sunday’s readings here:
Sometimes, the Sunday readings seem especially relevant. Such is the case with the opening lines of this week’s readings: “Terror on every side!” says the prophet Jeremiah. Earlier in chapter 20, the prophet had used those words to warn the inhabitants of Jerusalem about the impending siege of the Babylonians—a message that got him thrown into the stocks overnight for his trouble. Now we hear him ironically applying the same prophecy to his own situation—with one difference: unlike the people of Jerusalem, he continues to trust in the salvation of the Lord.
Jesus affirms Jeremiah’s attitude of trust, telling his followers: “Fear no one.” Don’t be afraid of those who can kill the body but not the soul, he says; rather, be afraid of the one who can kill both body and soul. Why be afraid, he says, when you know your Father is caring for you? Jesus calls his followers to remember that they not only have a body, but a soul—and to not let fear about our bodily safety drive us to take actions that endanger our souls.
In the second reading, Paul elaborates his redemptive theology for the Romans: If sin and death came to all because of the transgression of the first man (a reality we now call the doctrine of original sin), then how much more will we be blessed with life through the death of Jesus Christ? Paul’s words resonate with the message of the first reading and the Gospel: We have been liberated from death!
How does the Word of God call your family to live differently?
Jesus tells us not to be afraid of anyone or anything, because God is watching over us. God takes care of is even better than he takes care of the sparrows! We especially shouldn’t be afraid to do what is right or good.
What are you most afraid of? Are you ever afraid to do the right thing? Are you ever afraid to do what is good? What should a Christian do if they’re afraid or scared?
Poor Jeremiah! All his friends have turned on him, just because he told them a hard truth! God told Jeremiah to warn the people of Jerusalem that they were going to be defeated by the Babylonians, but the people didn’t want to hear about it. In fact, they did about everything possible to make Jeremiah shut up. Can you relate?
Could you tell your friends a hard truth that they needed to hear? What’s the best way to do that? Would it be worth losing the friendship—or even getting persecuted?
What about testifying to Jesus? At the end of the Gospel reading, Jesus challenges his followers to acknowledge him before others. Is that something you are brave enough to do?
How does the fear of death (or injury, or humiliation) interfere with your ability to live out the Gospel fully? How would your life be different if you were more worried about the health of your soul than the safety of your body?
What implications do the readings have for a Christian response to terrorism?
A little lectio
The ancient practice of prayerfully reflecting on bits of Scripture is known as lectio divina. Want to try it out with your family? Head over to Lectio Divina for Kids to find out how to adapt this prayer practice for your kids.
A little Bible study
Want to do a little Bible study with your kids? Here are some tips:
- During Ordinary Time, the Church pairs the Old Testament and New Testament readings in a way that each sheds light on the other. Ask your kids to look for the common theme connecting the two readings. (Sometimes it’s obvious, sometimes it is subtle.) How does the “dialogue” between the readings help you understand them better?
- Get a New American Bible, Revised Edition, and take a look at the footnotes for these readings. How do they change your understanding of what is going on?
- Take a look at the context for the readings—what happens before, or after?
- Read the NABRE’s introduction to the book of the Bible that the readings are taken from. How does that help you understand the readings?
- If you don’t have a copy of the NABRE at home, you can view it online at the USCCB website at the Daily Readings web page. (The link will take you to today’s reading; click forward or backward on the dates to get to Sunday’s readings.)
For even more resources for breaking open this Sunday’s readings, head over to The Sunday Website.
The image for Breaking Open the Word at Home is taken from a 17th century illuminated manuscript by an anonymous (but very talented) artist. The text is from the beginning of the Book of Sirach, chapter 1, verses 1-12, which begins: “All wisdom is from the Lord and remains with him forever.”