READINGS: Jeremiah 20:10-13 / Romans 5:12-15 / Matthew 10:26-33
12th Sunday in Ordinary Time
The adjective “steadfast” refers to something that is firmly fixed in place. That is, something immovable. It could also refer to something that is not subject to change (cf. Merriam-Webster Dictionary). Steadfast faith, therefore, refers to a faith that is immovable or that is not subject to change. This is the kind of faith in God we need to exhibit in difficult times, especially in this era of the CoViD-19 pandemic.
The Bible provides us with many examples of persons who demonstrated steadfast faith in God in difficult times. Today’s first reading (cf. Jer. 20:10-13), for instance, presents us with the personality of the prophet Jeremiah who experienced all kinds of difficulties and yet remain steadfast in faith. He was ridiculed, imprisoned, and dumped in a dry well. He suffered all these troubles in the hands of his own political authorities, religious leaders, friends and relatives. For instance, in today’s first reading, the prophet mentions the evil schemes and torments of his own friends and acquaintances:
‘For I hear many whisperings:
“Terror is all around!
Denounce him! Let us denounce him!”
All my close friends
are watching for me to stumble.
“Perhaps he can be enticed,
and we can prevail against him’ (Jer. 20:10).
To crown the series of difficulties Jeremiah experienced, he was eventually captured and sent into exile. Yet, in all these difficult times, his faith in God was steadfast. His faith was simply immovable. No difficulty was big enough to change his faith in God. He trusted that God who was with him is greater than all (Jer. 20:11). Therefore, even in the midst of his troubles, Jeremiah praised God (Jer. 20:13). Beloved, the prophet Jeremiah should inspire us to also remain steadfast in faith in difficult times, especially in this era of the CoViD-19 pandemic.
Furthermore, the Jews in Jeremiah’s time were taken into exile in Babylon. Some years later in exile, three young Jews would demonstrate extraordinary steadfast faith. The young men, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, refused to worship the golden statue knowing very well that they could be thrown into a fiery furnace for disobeying the order of the Babylonian king (Dan. 3:1-12). When brought before the king to answer the charge against them, they were steadfast in testifying to their faith in God. They said to the king: “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to present a defense to you in this matter. If our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire and out of your hand, O king, let him deliver us. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods and we will not worship the golden statue that you have set up” (Dan. 3:16-18).
Thus, they were prepared to die in the fiery furnace instead of giving up their faith in God. Their steadfastness in faith was certainly extraordinary! And what is more? Even in the midst of the flames of the furnace, the three young Jews sang and praise God (Daniel 3:25-90). God eventually saved them from the flames. As a result, the gentile king acknowledged that the God of Israel is almighty, and he decreed that all the peoples of the nations in his empire should revere the God of Israel. He then promoted the three young Jews (Daniel 3:91-100).
As Jeremiah, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego experienced difficulties, so our Lord Jesus alerted His apostles that they would also experience difficulties. And, as Jeremiah and the three young Jews remained faithful to God, trusting that God would reward them, so Jesus exhorted His apostles not to be fearful but to trust God who is almighty; for those whose faith remain steadfast in the Almighty will ultimately be victorious (cf. Matt. 10:26-33).
In short, Jeremiah, the three young Jews and our Lord Jesus Christ teach us that:
* God is above all difficulties, for He is supreme!
* No difficulty is difficult for God, for He is almighty!
* Difficult times do not mean the absence of God but rather a test to determine the absence or presence of our faith in God
* We pass the test of difficult times if we remain steadfast in faith by the grace of God.
* We demonstrate steadfast faith in difficult times when we endure the hardships, testify to our faith by word and deed, and praise God.
* God’s reward for those who pass the test of faith in difficult times is great!
Beloved, like Jeremiah, Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego and the apostles who were all literally martyred on account of their faith in God, let us remain steadfast in these difficulties of the pandemic. Let us testify to our faith in God by enduring the hardships of these times, while we find innovative ways of solving some problems; let us testify to our faith in God by word and deed; let us pray more fervently and praise God the more; where the opportunity is offered us, let us join our fellow church members to worship – for in the midst of the flame of the furnace as the three young men worshipped, an angel of God accompanied them; we are even more fortunate for Jesus Himself and not just an angel will be with us when at least two or three of us gather to worship.
Finally, beloved, may the reward of the Lord for our steadfast faith in these and other difficult times exceed our desires and imaginations. Amen!
By Very Rev. Fr. John Louis