Twelfth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A, June 21, 2020
About 600 years before Jesus, Jeremiah prophesied in Jerusalem. Political intrigue and religious laxity had corrupted the society. For speaking the truth about it, the prophet made enemies, and he speaks of them now.
Saint Paul speaks of the differences between Adam and the Risen Jesus. He applies these differences to life under the old Law of Moses and our new life in Christ.
Concern for their honor made ancient Middle-Eastern people practice much secrecy and deception. Jesus predicts a new openness and requires truthfulness on the part of his disciples.
Our Liturgical Setting: Our gospel readings this year take us chapter by chapter through Matthew. This first reading is chosen to prepare us for today's gospel, Matthew 10:26-33.
The Historical Situation: Jeremiah lived from about 650 B.C. to perhaps 580 B.C. Most of his work was in Judah's capital Jerusalem. He tried to keep the people and several kings faithful to God amidst an atmosphere of political intrigue and backstabbing like that which prevails in this writer's own capital today. Thus he had enemies and faithless friends, of whom we hear in this passage.
Proclaiming It: The reading is challenging for the lector because it contains three voices and three addressees. There is the overall narrator, there is Jeremiah himself, and there are his enemies. The narrator tells us "Jeremiah said," Jeremiah tells us "I hear my enemies saying ...," and the enemies say to one another, "Let us denounce him." Some of what Jeremiah says seems to be spoken to himself or to the narrator. But then there are the sentences Jeremiah speaks directly to God.
You can help the assembly understand this by the way you intone it or the way you phrase it. The more challenging path is to try to speak (intone, if you will) each different speaker's lines in a different register of your voice. If that seems daunting, try pausing before each change of speaker. It would be OK to make light pencil marks in the book you'll be reading from, if that will help you remember where to pause or change your tone. In any case, read the passage to yourself several times, noting where the changes come.
The Theological Background: The "one man" through whom sin entered the world is, of course, Adam. Paul is describing Jesus as a new Adam, founder of a new humanity. Where the first Adam brought sin and death into the world, the second Adam brings grace and life.
Remember that much of Romans is about whether Christians need to keep the Law of Moses. The Law was a good thing (so we capitalize it) in that it helped Israel distinguish itself from pagan neighbors. The Law detailed a way of life fitting for God's chosen people. But the individual's inability to keep the Law led Paul to see it as a source of judgment, condemnation, even despair.
Proclaiming It: The passage speaks directly of the contrast between death (from Adam) and life (from Jesus), and you should try to bring out that contrast with your voice while proclaiming it. There is also a hint of what Paul expounds elsewhere in Romans (and Galatians as well as other letters), the contrast between the Law that condemns and the faith that liberates.
Extra! Each Sunday passage from Romans in context: Click here to see a table summarizing the readings from Romans from the 9th to the 24th Sundays of Ordinary Time, this year.
Detail from a book illumination by Willem Vrelant (Flemish, died 1481, active 1454 - 1481.) This detail, popular on the Web, suggests that the artist conflated Eve and the Serpent. But he's not that misogynistic, as you can see from this reproduction of the whole page.
The text below the image is a "devout prayer before (the image of) a crucifix." An article in The Dublin Review, vol. 123, July-October, 1898, titled "How English Catholics Prayed in the Fourteenth Century," quotes this prayer, which seems a pretty accurate translation of the Latin in Vrelant's calligraphic text:
This page updated May 5, 2020