Year A: Twelfth Sunday Ordinary Time
Do not be afraid of those who kill the body.
Matthew 10: 26-33
Jesus said to the Twelve: “Fear no one. Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret that will not be known. What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light; what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna. Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge. Even all the hairs of your head are counted. So, do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. 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.”
- What role does fear play in your life and faith experience?
- When have you experienced a spiritual truth or a revelation of God’s presence and felt compelled to share it with others? Tell the story.
- When have you had to persevere in a time of suffering or persecution? How did you respond, did you experience God with you?
- Do you find it easier to worship Jesus than to follow him? In what ways does discipleship take a back seat to worship in your faith life?
After our 50 days of Easter and two solemnities, today’s Gospel thrusts us into the middle of Jesus’ discourse about mission. The opening line is the most important: “Fear no one.” If this were the Gospel of John, the next step would probably be a discourse on the truth that makes us free. But, Matthew is concerned about more concrete matters.
One dimension of Jesus’ instructions in this passage is the reversal of the “messianic secret” (Matthew 16:20). Instead of warning his disciples to “tell no one,”
Jesus now says there is no such thing as restricted access to the good news. When Jesus told people not to tell anyone what they thought of him or asked them not to publicize the news about a sign he had worked, it was generally because they didn’t fully understand it. They would be likely to proclaim him as their style of messiah or a wonder-worker, not as the messenger of God that he had been sent to be.
When the apostles are sent to proclaim the nearness and coming of the Kingdom of Heaven, they have been commissioned to do the works that Jesus has done. The very fact that Jesus could and did freely share his power demonstrates what kind of a savior he was. He sought the reign of heaven, not the spotlight.
Jesus commissioned the apostles and told them how to travel light and become a part of the communities they were to visit. Then, he immediately warned them about the job: he was sending them out as lambs among the wolves; they would be labeled as minions of the devil. What an introduction to his injunction, “Fear no one.”
Clearly, the disciples’ lack of fear can’t be based on external evidence or on naiveté. Jesus sends them out fully aware of what they are facing. But, even more than that, he makes them fully aware of the content of their message. They are being sent to proclaim what they have heard and to do what they have seen. They are to share what has sparked their hopes and deepened their faith. By giving them his mission, Jesus pushes them into the necessary next step of discipleship. It’s one thing to stand by and admire what Jesus says and does, it’s quite another to say and do the same. But, the reality is that only by taking up the mission can they be disciples. Jesus is not a one-man show. Anybody who wants to watch from the sidelines will never be more than a spectator. Being part of the dynamic of the coming of the reign of heaven requires active participation.
There is a mystery to this dynamic. Jesus preached God’s unconditional love and invited everyone to receive it. The trick is that we can only receive that love by risking everything else, as he said, by losing our life to save it. Apostles will know the love of God and the coming of the kingdom only to the extent that they give themselves to it. In knowing the love of God they will be impelled to share it. When they are dismissed and persecuted, they will understand that as an experience of solidarity with God and of God with them. Like fledgling sparrows learning to fly, they will set off behind their master trusting that the Father of Jesus will care for them as he had for Jesus himself. They will not be afraid.
You are not Alone
By Heather Neds
The Gospel we hear today is clear. The truth cannot be hidden from God; everything is revealed in his presence. When you check in with God, nothing is hidden. God knows our deepest secrets and knows our true intentions. God is ready to offer strength, support and even the words to heal our spirits. Acknowledge God and we will be delivered safely into his arms. This is what it means to be a disciple.
Early in Matthew’s account we hear Jesus say: “Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven” (Matthew 5:11-12a). Must we suffer hateful stares that stab like daggers? The judgmental whispers behind closed doors? Unkind words, false accusations and the like? Is this the price we pay to get to heaven?
Jesus is no stranger to people watching and waiting for him to misstep. Sitting in wait, ready to tear him down and put him to shame. During much of his public ministry, many of the Sadducees and Pharisees were plotting against him. They tried to twist his words and trap him into blasphemous speech.
The religious leaders created a plan to get rid of him. They arrested him and made up allegations of wrong doing. They ridiculed him for speaking what he believed was the truth. Then beat him until his body was broken and unrecognizable. But they didn’t get the best of Jesus, even as he stood silent, without protest. Those who plotted against Jesus believed they were saving the people from the heresy Jesus spoke. When they tore Jesus down, it inflated their egos. They felt they were right to “put him in his place.”
Though Jesus’ opponents attacked his body and mind, his spirit remained strong. They believed they had power over him. But Jesus didn’t let those who persecuted him have the last word. He knew he needed to persevere so justice could prevail. When Adam and Eve brought sin into the world, Jesus already knew he would come to earth in order to free us from sin. He knew he needed to die so the battle could be won. When he died on the cross, Jesus overcame evil once and for all.
How do you respond when you are given the cold shoulder, passed up for a promotion or even fired? Do you fight back? Throw stones? Where do you turn for help in the battle? How do you persevere? When put to the test, what do you do?
As a disciple, you need to follow Jesus’ example. He knew he was not alone — and neither are you. From the Garden of Gethsemane to his resurrection, God was there with Jesus. He was there in the words Jesus spoke to those who defended him when he was arrested. God was there comforting Jesus as the crown of thorns pierced his skull. Jesus was surrounded by angels, protecting him with each snap of the whip and each painful step he took carrying the cross. And after Jesus died, God let the darkness settle before the light was revealed in the resurrection.
Are you standing in the light? Shouting God’s praise from the rooftop? Do you acknowledge God when you are in the trenches and the whole world seems to be against you? Do you stand in truth with God be your constant help? Do your words and actions reflect your trust that God will not abandon you, that he is with you through it all? This is what it means to be a disciple.