12th Sunday A
St. Colman’s Cathedral, Cobh
25th June 2023
“Do not fear those who can kill the body”
Over recent years we hear more and more about how toxic our public life has become. To say that it is toxic is to suggest that it is infected with a social poison which is inflicting a grave sickness in society. This toxic culture has many layers to it – starting with the way we carry on debates and discussions on public policy. Basic courtesy and personal respect has been abandoned – to be replaced by a venomous personal attack on the individual. Such is the impact on some individuals especially women that they choose to withdraw from public life.
On a less obvious but more powerful and destructive level is the abuse that is hurled at people on social media platforms. It has a horrendous effect on the lives of so many young people who live so much of their lives through these networks. It has led some to take their own lives. The sense of loss and tragedy knows no bounds in these families.
My friends, reading from the Prophet Jeremiah to-day reminds us that this phenomenon of hatred of the good and desire to punish and torment is not a new phenomenon rather is as old as the resentment and vengeance of the begrudger and bully. As with Jeremiah who stood up for the needy soul so too it is for so many who choose that which is right, true and good in the face of taunts and torments. Right now, we know of and remember so many disciples of Christ, our brothers and sisters, who are suffering deeply because of their witness to the Gospel. So too for people who challenge the injustices of society.
The strategy of the bully is to generate terror – begetting fear – in their determination to steal, kill and destroy. Like Jeremiah they cry out for the protection and preservation for their very lives and that of their families. So many hope and trust in the Lord’s invitation to “not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both body and soul in hell”. He draws our attention to the all-knowing Providence of the Father – by whom the hairs on our heads are counted and little sparrows are not forgotten. When the poor, the weak, the frail are killed and destroyed the enemy, the evil one is satisfied in their thirst for power but in doing so their soul is no more.
That is true on a personal level – and too often we witness the cruelty of the strong. It is true also of society – if we enable and empower the destruction of the little ones, the vulnerable among us we too will lose our soul – it will cost us our soul.
On a global level we are witnessing this same dynamic of the abuse of power to the detriment and destruction of the powerless. Such forces of domination and destruction are incapable of building a society where human dignity is valued and cherished.
To-day’s Gospel therefore, makes for chilling reading. It is not from the dim, distant past rather alarmingly true in reflecting so many tragedies of our time.