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Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Deacon Bill Tunilla

The Messenger

The idiom shooting the messenger has its roots in ancient Greece. It came to mean blaming the bearer for the bad news they brought. In ancient times, messengers were sent to impart official news, and these messengers sometimes incurred the wrath of the one receiving that bad news. In a sense the messenger became the message and at times suffered and even died for it.

Our first reading from the book of the Prophet Jeremiah is a great example of shooting the messenger. It is evident the message Jeremiah preached and the person of Jeremiah overlapped even though he wished it wasn’t so.  

Jeremiah was called at a young age (around 13) to be a prophet, a messenger of God.  This was not a job Jeremiah sought out willingly.  He even tried to get God to change his mind by saying that he wasn’t a good speaker… but like Moses, (Deut 18:18) God would place words in Jeremiah’s mouth (Jer 1:9). 

Being a prophet was not a glamorous job.  Prophets were scoffed at, beaten, imprisoned and humiliated for challenging the status quo and Jeremiah suffered greatly for sharing God’s message, including being thrown into a cistern. Prophets didn’t seek to be prophets nor could they be proud of their attainments. 

Their lives were filled with loneliness and misery.  Some like Jeremiah cursed the day they were born. 

Jeremiah’s prophecies of judgement were a response to the moral decay in Judah.  The chosen people had forsaken their covenant with God, throwing off the yoke of the Lord.  In the end, even though Jeremiah forecast the destruction of Judah, Jerusalem and the Temple, the people did not listen and Jeremiah couldn’t prevent the doom of Judah.  Still he fulfilled his role as a messenger of God.

We too like the people of Jeremiah have received a difficult message today, one perhaps we should not ignore as they did in Jeremiah’s day.  In our Gospel reading today Jesus shares “Do you think I have come to establish peace on the earth?  No, I tell you, but rather division. From now on a household will be divided, three against two and two against three; a father will be divided against his son and a son against his father; a mother against her daughter and a daughter against her mother; a mother-in-law against her daughter-in- law and daughter-in-law against a mother-in-law.

These are pretty disturbing words from Jesus who most of us prefer to think of as the Prince of peace but it makes more sense when we consider just how extremely important family relationships were in the time of Jesus. 

A person's place in the family conferred both their personal identity and their place in the community. People knew who you were, because they knew who your father and mother were.  The family unit provided a support system in a world without public assistance programs. To divide a family was to leave its members on shaky ground both socially and economically.  

Most of us have experienced family divisions and many of us have experienced being a messenger of bad news and some may have experienced being scoffed at, belittled or found our message fell on deaf ears when we shared God’s truth.  

The world is full of confusion.  Many people are unchurched, many disbelieve in God or church and many more don’t know what to believe. Self-gratification seems to be taking God’s place, much like in the days of Jeremiah.  We may find people very dear to us are choosing to live their lives contrary to the truth and to the teachings of Christ. Instead they seek to fill the infinite longing in their souls for God with the finite things of this world.

Being a modern-day prophet is not any easier today than it was in the time of Jeremiah.  Sharing Christ’s message and being a follower of Jesus is a hard thing to do and yet it is the right thing to do.  We must stay faithful to the struggle and persevere. 

As we heard in last Sunday’s readings we need to stay prepared.  For we do not know when our faith will be tested or when the Master will come. 

Our lives are filled to the brim with work, commitments, responsibilities and distractions.  We can easily lose sight of the big picture and make excuses like Jeremiah did. We may not be good at communication or know our faith well or feel confident enough to share it.    I can tell you that I am not always comfortable sharing God’s truth.

But I know on the day of our Baptism we were all anointed as priest, prophet and king.  All of the Baptized faithful have been given the grace to proclaim the Good News of salvation to the world. 

Still feel unprepared? Me too, so this year Holy Cross is offering three continuing adult education classes on Tuesday nights at Hanshew Middle School, the same night and place our youth receive their Catholic faith instruction.

There is no cost for adults and our religious education is not only for Catholics but we will hold our RCIA class, the Rite of Christian initiation of Adults for any non-Catholic or unbaptized person who may be interested in becoming Catholic.

Christ was the messenger who became the message.  Jesus preached that the divided household was the uncommitted household.  He insisted that we can’t have it both ways; one is either for the kingdom or against the kingdom.  

Jesus' words help us make sense of a world that opposes so many Christian teachings. In the Gospel of John 16:33, Christ states, "I have told you this so that you might have peace in me.  In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world.”

Christ’s enemies believed that to kill the messenger was to kill the message.  Paradoxically, the death of Christ the messenger only ensured the message lives on in us today.  If we recall two Sundays ago, this is how Deacon Bill Sr. ended his homily.  “Christ won our salvation by His death on those two “interesting pieces of wood” behind me.  Don’t let His sacrifice be in vain!” 

Let’s not let Jesus’ sacrifice be in vain, for let us remember that the cross on Calvary was painful, but the empty tomb and resurrection was the positive proof that the messengers, that’s us, from the day of our Baptism in Christ become fearless priests, prophets and Kings living out our lives as both message and messenger proclaiming the message of the one who saved the world.  


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