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Listen, Obey, Witness

“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.”

Thank you for joining today as we begin our Ordinary Time journey and place our focus on listening to, obeying, and witnessing to Jesus.

Today we begin in Jeremiah. When we hear the phrase ‘the Lamentations of Jeremiah’ we are reminded of the difficult message he had to bring to a people who would not listen, and the cost he faced for bringing that message.

Let’s set this up a little bit. Just before the opening verse “I hear the whisperings of many: ‘Terror on every side! Denounce! let us denounce him!’Jeremiah had been in the public stocks outside the Temple. The Chief of the Temple police, Pashhur (whose name means freedom and peacefulness) had arrested him, whipped him with thirty-nine lashes, and put him in the stocks. He then let Jeremiah out early. Jeremiah immediately called Pashhur a name: Magor-Missabib, literally ‘Terror on Every Side.’  Jeremiah had no intention of moderating or covering over God’s message. He boldly told the priest and chief of police that destruction was sure to come, and they would be at the center of it. They would be ‘terror on every side.’

Now we hear Jeremiah quoting the people. In mockery they call him Magor-Missabib, ‘Terror on Every Side.’ They try to use God’s words against him. They will watch for any misstep and use it as pretext for destroying Jeremiah and as an excuse for ignoring God. Knowing this Jeremiah again proclaims his faithfulness to God’s message and work.

Jesus tells his disciples that their listening to Him, obeying and carrying out the work of witness He has given them will, just like Jeremiah, not be easy. He also reassures them of God’s attention to and protection of their work. They are valued by God for listening, obeying, and witnessing. To drive the point home, he repeats “do not be afraid” three times.

Brothers and sisters, we are called to an incredible and glorious task. We are asked to listen to, obey, and witness to Jesus and His gospel teaching. We are called to the discipline of the Holy Church and her teachings which are the Holy Spirit’s proclamation to us of all He heard the Son teach (cf. John 14:26, 16:13).

We have choices. Listen, obey, and witness are three components in which we must choose to follow God’s way or go our own way. Choosing God in everyday life and daily encounters has consequences and sometimes they are unpleasant. However, choosing our comfort, convenience, our own way has consequences as well. Jesus – God Himself told us: be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna. The evil one leads us in our own ways, in a mirage of freedom which is not freedom at all. Let us choose rightly so Jesus acknowledges us before the Father and does not see us as ‘terror on every side.’