SHARING SPIRITUAL FOOD:
St. Catherine of Siena, Ripon, WI - Fr. Davies Edassery Sac
OT XII Sunday[A] “HAVE NO FEAR”: Jer 20:10-13; Rom 5:12-15; Mt 10:26-33
Scripture readings for this Sunday call us to preach Christ through our words and lives without fear. The first reading tells us how the prophet Jeremiah trusted in the power of God while he faced opposition for his prophetic ministry. Today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 69) displays the same trust in the kindness and great mercy of God when he is misunderstood and ill-treated even by his brothers and relatives. In the second reading, Paul assures the Christians in Rome that they need not be afraid of opposition both because they share in the death of Jesus and his Resurrection and because they are united with Christ, the new Adam, in his Resurrection. Today’s Gospel passage is taken from the end of Jesus’ instruction to the Twelve apostles as he sends them forth in pairs to prepare the people for His own coming, giving them a share in His own powers of miraculous healing. He instructs them to live simply and to expect opposition and rejection. After having predicted future opposition and persecution, Jesus encourages his disciples to stand firm. Three times they are urged, “Do not fear!” “Do not be afraid!” Instead of shrinking from their task, they are to proclaim the Gospel boldly because they will be protected, just as Jeremiah was assured of God’s protection. Hence, Jesus commands his disciples not to fear their persecutors. He presents before them the image of the sparrow to reinforce the disciples’ trust and Hope in God. The readings hint at the opposition the Apostles themselves would meet, and we future Christians will encounter as we carry on the work of Jesus in the world, and they encourage us to persevere in doing the work of Jesus. They assure us that we will be successful despite the opposition we encounter.
Have no FEAR. Jesus suggests that his disciples should move from fear to courage through trust and reliance in God. He gives three reasons why neither his apostles nor we, should be frightened.
The first reason is that their opponents will not be able to prevent Jesus’ followers from succeeding in their mission because God will expose the opponents’ evil plans and deeds: “nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered.” The Lord “will bring to light the hidden things of darkness” (1 Cor 4:5) and will vindicate the faithful.
The second reason not to be afraid is the limited power of our opponents. They can kill the body, which dies all too soon anyway, but have no power over the soul. Only God has power over eternity. The Gospel identifies two fears that the apostles had: fear of false accusation and conviction, and fear of bodily harm and death. Tradition has it that almost all the apostles died the violent death of martyrdom. Some of them ended up being crucified on the cross, like Peter and Andrew; beheaded, like James and Paul; flayed alive, like Bartholomew; or thrown into a cauldron of boiling oil, like John (who survived without a blister, suffered exile, was then freed, and died of old age, the last of the original apostles).
The third reason we should not be afraid is God’s compassionate love. We are more important to God than sparrows. Matthew speaks of two sparrows sold for one penny. The God who cares for a trivial bird like the sparrow also cares about our smallest problems – even the hairs on our heads are counted. While this is an encouraging assurance, it may be difficult to believe in the midst of persecution. But God knows everything that we go through – nothing that happens to us escapes Him. When we feel lonely and abandoned, when it seems that our prayers are unanswered, God knows and cares. Jesus concludes by saying, “So do not be afraid; you are worth much more than many sparrows.”