1 Corinthians 12:12-13, 27-30 & Matthew 10, 16-25
June 19, 2016 at Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Catholic Church in Norman, Oklahoma
After calling, appointing, and authorizing apostles and then giving traveling instructions, there is still more. Now there is instruction about what it means to share in the mission of Jesus, and what consequences can be expected. It is important to notice that in Matthew’s Gospel there is no specific missionary journey recorded as there is in Mark and in Luke where the 72 and the 12 are sent out and return to report what had happened. Those instruction that we heard last week were about how the faithful, the church, should present itself to the world, and so today Matthew continues to direct us on about to expect and how to respond.
As the disciples, the apostles, the church began to fulfill the mission the Jesus sent them on, there was no doubt that they would experience the same reactions experienced by Jesus. If the message is the same, and if his presence is realized within them, there is going to be trouble because vested interests were going to be threatened. For instance, when Paul came to Ephesus where the economy rested upon the making of silver idols, far fewer people bought those idols and the economy collapsed. Paul paid the price. It is estimated by historians that there may have been 60 million slaves in the Roman Empire. It was a terror in the mind of free Romans that those slaves might rise up and revolt. When the message of the Gospel and the life-style of Christ’s followers spread through the empire, there was even greater concern because preaching that in Christ there is neither freeman nor slave was revolutionary talk. It had to be silenced. The church which treated everyone with love, compassion, understanding, and respect was not welcome, and those who believed such things and behaved that way had to go.
As it was then, so it remains. The message of the Gospel and the messengers that proclaim it living by its instructions continue to be a challenge and a threat to those whose would have things remain as they are. Vested interests are still feeling uncomfortable and even threatened by the Gospel. Issues of racism, sexism, justice, and sometimes the economy, just as in Ephesus, are confronted by those sent by Christ with the Gospel as their guide and their mission. When immigrants flee their homes for their very lives, we know what Christ would have us do. His own family fled to Egypt in fear of a violent madman. Yet this threatens some, and they turn on those who speak of justice with ridicule to silence the voices of those who cry out with good news for those in fear.
The mission of justice, of peace, and of forgiveness still finds resistance where ever it threatens those in power whose interests are best served by keeping things the way they are by building walls and locking doors. At first their response is ridicule and petty name calling. When this is not effective, power and force is brought to bear with threats and punitive actions. Then the violence begins. The pattern is there from the beginning. The resistance is no less, while the need for the truth, for justice, and for peace is even greater. The growing power and influence of secularism which dismisses the basic Christian value of life itself cannot go unchallenged no matter what the cost. The growing power and the consequence of greed and a self-serving economy with a denial that we are responsible for one another as children of God cannot go unchallenged no matter how often or how insulting are the reactions of those who are threatened.
Those sent out must have conformed themselves to Christ Jesus, not just to his glory in the resurrection, but to his abandonment, his loneliness, his disappointment, and eventually to his crucifixion. They will face opposition with patient courage. They will face rejection with dignity finding comfort in the mutual support of their brothers and sisters. There is a, and history has shown it to be true, a positive consequence to all of this. It bears witness to others. In the time of Matthew, this persecution bore witness to the Gentiles, and they came to Christ because of it. It shall be so again. The power of love is never overcome for it is the power of the Holy Spirit
Matthew is writing to the Jewish converts. No one people has ever been more persecuted and suffered more than the Jewish people. They understood what he was saying. There is here a paradox and a statement of privilege. To suffer for Christ is to share in the work of Christ. To have to sacrifice for the faith is to share the sacrifice of Christ. There is always a thrill in belonging to noble company, and that’s where we are when we are one with Christ.
When our faith costs something we are closer than ever to Jesus Christ, and when we have a share in his sufferings we shall also have a share in his victory and resurrection.