(Mt 10: 16-23)
Jesus said to his Apostles:
“Behold, I am sending you like sheep in the midst of wolves;
so be shrewd as serpents and simple as doves.
But beware of men,
for they will hand you over to courts
and scourge you in their synagogues,
and you will be led before governors and kings for my sake
as a witness before them and the pagans.
When they hand you over,
do not worry about how you are to speak
or what you are to say.
You will be given at that moment what you are to say.
For it will not be you who speak
but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
Brother will hand over brother to death,
and the father his child;
children will rise up against parents and have them put to death.
You will be hated by all because of my name,
but whoever endures to the end will be saved.
When they persecute you in one town, flee to another.
Amen, I say to you, you will not finish the towns of Israel
before the Son of Man comes.”
The gospel reading provides us a glimpse of the challenges the early Christians had to face, at a time when it was dangerous to be Christian. The believers had to practice their faith always at the risk of persecution and martyrdom. The systematic harassment was state-sponsored. The religious establishment labelled them rebels. Their families ridiculed and rejected them. In spite of these they remained firm and steadfast. The Lord was faithful to his promise to send them the Holy Spirit to guide and empower them, to give them the words they had to say.
The challenges to Christian discipleship today are quite different but not less demanding or distressing. They come with different names; secularism, relativism, materialism, hedonism and others more. Jesus’ teaching will necessarily disturb minds and hearts of people who consider them threats to their value-system and comfortable lifestyle. This could fuel hatred, persecution and martyrdom. We need not worry. Take courage. God is on our side. But we need to be wise, exercise caution and prudence.
Daily Gospel 2017