12 Sunday of the Year A
Ger 20:10-13; Rom 5:12-15; Mt 10:26-33
Introduction: This is a homily/Scripture reflection in a book, titled: ‘Every Week God Speaks We Respond’, Cycle A, intended to be published in the future by Reverend John Tran Binh Trong.
It was published in Vietnamese in the US 2007 and republished in Viet Nam 2010. To keep the author’s writing style, this homily has not been edited and may not be by a hired hand. However, if readers would like to point out mistake(s) in spelling and grammar and/or to suggest English phrases and expressions, it would be greatly appreciated by the author, whose English is not his mother tongue and who did not live in the US until his adulthood. Passive sentences are used intentionally in this context as to avoid using the first personal pronoun ‘I’ when applicable. That might be associated with any idea of egotism, in accord with the French saying, known as: ‘Le moi est haissable’ (The ego is detestable).
The prophet’s mission in the Old Testament was to remind God’s people, of who they were, how they had to live and to do as his chosen people. When the prophets warned the people of idol worship, immorality and injustice, they would not be welcomed into the community. That was what the prophet Jeremiah had to bear. He was denounced by the king and the people for his criticism of their unfaithfulness and evil practices in the temple. The role of prophet does not exist in the Old Testament only, but is also applied to the New Testament.
When Jesus ascended into heaven, the apostles had to continue his work of redemption on earth. If the prophets in the Old Testament were persecuted, then the apostles in the New Testament were also persecuted for their faith. In the Gospel of today, Jesus told the twelve not to be afraid three times when preaching the Gospel. At first, Jesus said: Fear no one (Mt 10:26). Thus, Jesus prepared them to face trials and persecutions in their missionary work. What they heard in the darkness, they had to speak in the light (Mt 10:27). It means what Jesus spoke to their small group of the Twelve; the apostles had to preach to all nations.
What they heard whispered, they had to proclaim on the housetops (Mt 10:27). It means what Jesus spoke privately to the apostles, they had to preach publicly. Later on, the church has to preach with all kinds of mass media such as public address system, books, newspaper, magazines, radio, television and even the internet. Jesus’ second reminder was: Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul (Mt 10:28).
The meaning here is obvious. To bear witness to the faith will mean death for many of the faithful. That is why since the foundation of the Church, there were so many faithful who were willing to shed their blood for their faith. There were hundred thousands of martyrs who died for their faith in different parts of the world: a great multitude of the first Roman martyrs, those martyrs in Japan, those martyrs in China, those martyrs in Vietnam, those martyrs in Korea, those martyrs in England, those martyrs in Uganda, those martyrs in Mexico and so on. They did apply the message of the gospel to the situation they encountered in life.
The Gospel message of today does not seem to be suitable in our days. In our days, there is no longer persecution of Christian faith, except in some parts of the world. However, even in those countries where freedom of religion is guaranteed, people are still afraid of expressing their faith and bearing witness to their faith. When our way of life and our practice of faith are different from that of the world, we will suffer ridicule, suspicion and rejection. Any form of opposition would intimidate us. We might be afraid of losing jobs or friends only because we are faithful to the Gospel. One more thing that might intimidate us is to fear ourselves. We are afraid of facing the truth about ourselves since the truth might hurt. In the papacy of Pope John Paul II, a number of times he reminded the Christians of the Gospel message: Be not afraid. When visiting different countries with moral decays, with high divorce and abortion rates, with oppression, injustices, with different standards of living between the rich and the poor, he dared to speak the truth; even it might have hurt their leaders. The Pope also wrote a book entitled: Be not afraid.
The third time in today's gospel, Jesus said to the Apostles: Do not be afraid, you are worth more than many sparrows (Mt 10:31). Even though the sparrows are worth only a little, the heavenly Father still takes care of them. If God takes good care of the birds of the air, how much more will he take care of us? That is the meaning of his words: First seek the kingdom of God and his way of holiness, and all other things will be provided later (Mt 6:33). God's words mean first we should find time to worship God and to practice the Christian faith, and all other things like food and drink, job, housing and so on will be provided later on in a proper order..
A prayer for not being afraid:
O Lord Jesus, you are our fortress and our shield.
We thank you for your encouraging us not to fear.
When I am afraid of expressing my faith,
Increase my courage and strength.
When I am scared to face opposition and rejection
Come to my assurance.
Teach me to put my complete trust and confidence in you
In all the circumstances of my life
in happiness and sadness, in success and failure
‘in sickness and health’. Amen.
John Tran Binh Trong