First reading Jeremiah 20:10-13

He has delivered the soul of the needy from the hands of evil men

Jeremiah said:
I hear so many disparaging me,
‘“Terror from every side!”
Denounce him! Let us denounce him!’
All those who used to be my friends
watched for my downfall,
‘Perhaps he will be seduced into error.
Then we will master him
and take our revenge!’
But the Lord is at my side, a mighty hero;
my opponents will stumble, mastered,
confounded by their failure;
everlasting, unforgettable disgrace will be theirs.
But you, O Lord of Hosts, you who probe with justice,
who scrutinise the loins and heart,
let me see the vengeance you will take on them,
for I have committed my cause to you.
Sing to the Lord,
praise the Lord,
for he has delivered the soul of the needy
from the hands of evil men.

Responsorial Psalm 68(69):8-10,14,17,33-35

In your great love, answer me, O Lord.
It is for you that I suffer taunts,
  that shame covers my face,
that I have become a stranger to my brothers,
  an alien to my own mother’s sons.
I burn with zeal for your house
  and taunts against you fall on me.
This is my prayer to you,
  my prayer for your favour.
In your great love, answer me, O God,
  with your help that never fails:
Lord, answer, for your love is kind;
  in your compassion, turn towards me.
The poor when they see it will be glad
  and God-seeking hearts will revive;
for the Lord listens to the needy
  and does not spurn his servants in their chains.
Let the heavens and the earth give him praise,
  the sea and all its living creatures.

Second reading Romans 5:12-15

The gift considerably outweighed the fall
Sin entered the world through one man, and through sin death, and thus death has spread through the whole human race because everyone has sinned. Sin existed in the world long before the Law was given. There was no law and so no one could be accused of the sin of ‘law-breaking’, yet death reigned over all from Adam to Moses, even though their sin, unlike that of Adam, was not a matter of breaking a law.
  Adam prefigured the One to come, but the gift itself considerably outweighed the fall. If it is certain that through one man’s fall so many died, it is even more certain that divine grace, coming through the one man, Jesus Christ, came to so many as an abundant free gift.

Gospel Matthew 10:26-33

Do not be afraid of those who kill the body
Jesus instructed the Twelve as follows: ‘Do not be afraid. For everything that is now covered will be uncovered, and everything now hidden will be made clear. What I say to you in the dark, tell in the daylight; what you hear in whispers, proclaim from the housetops.
  ‘Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; fear him rather who can destroy both body and soul in hell. Can you not buy two sparrows for a penny? And yet not one falls to the ground without your Father knowing. Why, every hair on your head has been counted. So there is no need to be afraid; you are worth more than hundreds of sparrows.
  ‘So if anyone declares himself for me in the presence of men, I will declare myself for him in the presence of my Father in heaven. But the one who disowns me in the presence of men, I will disown in the presence of my Father in heaven.’


It has almost become a commonplace to speak about the sin of Adam and Eve as a historical event, a sin committed a long time ago in the past by the first human beings. We imagine this so-called ‘original sin’ as having disastrous effects upon the whole human race.

Consistent with this way of imagining things, people speak about ‘the Fall’, imagining that human beings were once in one state – living in paradise – and then we fell into the mixed up state in which we find ourselves. Some of us even imagine that if our first parents had not sinned human beings would not have physically died. We would have somehow been immortal.

None of these ideas make much sense, and more awareness of the kind of literature with which we are dealing in the early chapters of Genesis has led us to find truth in the story at another level.

The story of the sin of Adam and Eve is not a record of an event in the life of our first parents. Adam stands for Every-man and Eve for Every-woman. It is a story about human beings and the way we behave. We all find ourselves failing to listen to God.

If we are honest with ourselves, we see ourselves to varying degrees in Adam and Eve: the same pride, the same disobedience, the same confusion, the same attempt to find excuses. Left to ourselves we often get it wrong, we don’t see properly, we are confused, we fail to live within our real limits, we don’t know how to open our hearts to receive from God, we sin and we entice others to sin with us, we lose contact with the sacred and we die inside.

Left to ourselves we do what Adam and Eve do in the story and we wonder why we wander on the face of the earth feeling like outcasts.

The point Paul is making is that, thanks to Jesus, whom he calls ‘the new Adam’, we know that we are not left to ourselves. We sometimes feel that we have been banished by God, but it is not true. God loves us and continues to call us.

Jesus kept on trying to say that we have the wrong picture. We might stray from God and spoil the garden of this world and find ourselves in a desert, but God doesn’t banish us from the garden. We walk out and we are constantly being invited back. Jesus showed very clearly that God is love and wants us to live and to live to the full.

We are all called to ‘strike our note’. Jesus shows us that God is pouring out a unique grace over each of us. As Jesus insists in today’s Gospel, ‘even the hairs on your head are all counted’. 

Jesus taught us not to be afraid of God. He showed us that God knows our weakness, and loves us as we are. His longing is that we might live and live to the full (John 10:10), He wants each of us to ‘strike our note’,  and in order that we might do this, Jesus gives us a share in his Spirit, in the love-communion with God which he experiences.

To the author of the Book of Genesis a human being could be represented by Adam and Eve – and there is a lot of truth in what he writes. But now that we have seen Jesus we must revise our ideas about what it means to be human. If we want to know who we really are we no longer look at the story of Adam, for he shows us who we are without Jesus.

Now, says Paul, let us look at Jesus. It is he who shows us what it really means to be human, and he makes it possible for us by sharing his Spirit with us.

There are times when we feel like Adam. We feel overwhelmed, lost, bewildered and heavy of heart. There are times when we cry out, like Jeremiah in today’s First Reading, but feel that no one is listening. The Responsorial Psalm picks up the mood of the Mass nicely by encouraging us to keep crying out, trusting that God does hear the cry of the poor, and that he is answering us.

We must remember, however, that only God knows best what we really need. We must remember also that sometimes we are not yet ready to receive the grace that God is offering us. We will receive the grace we really need, as the psalmist says, ‘at an acceptable time’: in other words, when we are ready.

Fr Michael Fallon msc