12th Sunday, Year A

“Do not be afraid”

If we look into the history of all organized religions, we will find that in some or other phase of their growth they have used force to spread their faith. Although it is incompatible with authentic religious principles, the social and political wisdom has managed to get upper hand to make religion an instrument of aggression. It happens also today. The human tendency is to victimize others, in order to be victors. Christianity also has its shameful past of aggression in the name of faith. If we look into the Gospel, we find that Jesus took position with the victims, not with the victors. The teaching of Jesus is consistently non-violent in its content. Jesus opted for the down-trodden, the marginalized, and the oppressed groups of people. He came to liberate and reconcile the fallen humanity with God.

In today’s Gospel (Cf. Matthew 10:26-33), the Lord Jesus, after calling and sending His disciples on mission, He instructed and prepared them to face the dangers and persecutions they would encounter. He knew very well what was going to happen and the challenges they had to encounter. Thus He exhorts them: “Have no fear of them; for nothing is covered that will not be revealed. What I tell you in the dark, utter in the light. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul” (vv. 26-28). They can only kill the body, but they do not have power to kill the soul: have no fear of them. Jesus’ sending the disciples on mission does not guarantee them success, as it does not shelter them from failures and sufferings. They must take into account be it the possibility of rejection be it that of persecution. This is somewhat frightening, but it is the truth. So He exhorts them to grow in faith and be committed to their mission.

The disciple is called to conform himself to Christ’s own life, who was persecuted by men, knew rejection, abandonment and death on the cross. Christian mission has to be dominated by tranquility. Difficulties and tribulations are part of the work of evangelization, and we are called, to find in them the occasion to verify the authenticity of our faith and of our relationship with Jesus. We must regard these difficulties as the possibility to be even more missionaries and to grow in that trust of God, our Father, who does not abandon His children in the hour of the storm. We have to build our house of rock, so that it could withstand rain and storm. In the difficulties of Christian witness in the world, we are never forgotten, but always helped by the Father’s loving concern. Therefore, in today’s Gospel, for a good three times Jesus reassures the disciples saying: “Have no fear!” but look beyond the earthly realities of our life.

Today there is more persecution against Christians than it ever had in the earlier centuries is a matter of great concern for all of us. We pray for our brothers and sisters who are persecuted and we praise God because, despite this, they continue to witness their faith with courage and fidelity. Let their example help us to not hesitate in taking a position in favor of Christ, witnessing Him courageously in everyday situations, even in apparently tranquil environments. In fact, a form of test could also be the absence of hostilities and tribulations. However, in all of this the Lord continues to say to us, as He said to the disciples of His time: “Have no fear!” Let us not forget this word: When we have some tribulation, some persecution, something that makes us suffer, we must always listen to Jesus’ voice in our heart: “Have no fear! Have no fear; go on! I am with you!”  Have no fear of one who derides you and mistreats you; and have no fear of one who ignores or honors you “before” others but “behind” you combats the Gospel. There are so many that smile before us but behind us they combat the Gospel. We all know them. Jesus does not leave us alone: each one is precious for Jesus, and He accompanies us.

The necessity of loyalty in Christian life: If we are loyal to Jesus in this life, Jesus will be loyal to us in the life to come. On the other hand, if we are too proud to acknowledge that Christ is our Lord and Savior, He will not acknowledge us in the next life. In the early Church, Christians had the courage of their convictions, knowing very well that this might result in their losing their lives. Hence, we must not deny God through our silence, whether in word or deed. Denial by deeds arises from actions that do not match our profession of Faith. We must not be ashamed to behave as people of Faith and proclaim our Christian convictions when necessary.

Trust in God will keep us in good stead even in a turbulent world. What we need to do is to turn to our spiritual center and regenerate our energy. All those external factors, which frighten us will have no effect on us, as long us our foundation is firm. The loss of the center is a terrible experience that can happen in human life. The temptation to fortify the boundaries, the external securities is a sign of a weakened center. People depend on wealth and power, followers and supporters to substitute the center, the inner core, when it gradually become empty and dry. This betrayal of the center has grave consequences in life. Nobody can hide behind the walls of security for long. Times will come when the emptiness will be revealed as the walls fall. Jesus warns us against these disastrous happenings, which are incumbent in the lives of those who forget the Lord of life.  Whoever denies me before world; I also will deny them before the Father who is in heaven.

Revelation of hidden things and triumph of truth: “There is nothing hidden that will not be revealed and nothing secret that will not be made known,” This is not a threat that God will expose some sin we had forgotten. Jesus speaks these words as Good News, as a reason not to be afraid of persecution. These verses promise that the evil motives and the wickedness of the persecutors will someday become a matter of public knowledge.   At the Last Judgment, the persecutors will not be able to hide their sin. It will eventually come to light and to judgment. When that happens, those who have been persecuted will be vindicated before God and before the world. Verses 26-27 promise the ultimate triumph of truth and righteousness. We are challenged to trust in the loving God who continually saves us in the events of our lives. We are sheltered, protected and wrapped in God’s love. It helps us to bear witness to Him and be the agents of evangelization.

May the Virgin Mary, model of humble and courageous adherence to the Word of God, help us to understand that, in witnessing the faith, successes do not count but fidelity, fidelity to Christ, recognizing in any circumstances, even the most problematic, and the inestimable gift of being His missionary disciples.