12th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Matthew 10: 26-33
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be always acceptable to you O Lord, our God and our Creator.
I want to start by being honest with you all; when I first sat down and read the Gospel today in preparation for writing this sermon I was a little perplexed. At face value the words were rather challenging and a little cryptic and I was at a loss for a focus, something that usually comes quickly to me. So I had to take a little while and really sit and stew over the words of Christ.
As I did this my mind wondered (a little off task in some ways) to my Dominican heritage. There’s a book that many of us Dominicans would have read called “The New Wine of Dominican Spirituality” and in these pages the Gospel and the Dominican approach to it is likened to wine and the process of drinking and becoming drunk (metaphorically of course). I realised that as I sat and thought about the Gospel I was actually doing what we’re called to do as Dominicans. Like a connoisseur of fine wine I was taking my time to let the tastes fully develop, to let the wine of the gospel breath; and I have to say that I am glad that I did. As I sat and read over the passage and contemplated its words the full bloom of the passages bouquet was opened to my senses.
I thought this was something worth sharing as I’ve known many people who are put off reading the Bible by the conception that it’s a musty, cryptic book that takes a lifetime to understand at even a basic level. However, nothing can be further from the truth! The Bible is as easy to consume as a bottle of wine; all we need to do is pull the cork and invite our friend the Holy Spirit to share it with us. If we do this the words of the scriptures will open before us and we can all become drunk with the Word.
So as I sat imbibing the drink of the Gospel it became apparent to me that today’s Gospel reading is extremely relevant for not only the Christian world, but the entirety of humanity at this time. The reading starts with Christ telling His Apostles not to fear; who are they not to fear? The reading simply says “them”. If we explore back into the preceding passages we see that Christ is speaking about those who would persecute the Apostles. Christ is adamant that we should not fear those who persecute us.
It seems that every time I turn on the television or read a news article I’m reading fresh tales of war, famine and persecution. It’s hard in these days of terror not to become afraid; images of bombings, stabbings, beheadings and even crucifixions adorn our media portals. However, Jesus wants us all to know that we don’t need to be afraid; it seems like a big ask doesn’t it; don’t be afraid when there’s an unending barrage of hate and terror presented to us? Nevertheless, Jesus offers the disciples some advice to combat this fear and terror and I think that it applies to us just as well as it did to those in the times of Christ.
Jesus points out to His Disciples that though they may face persecution and harm, maybe even death, these things are not final. The woes of this world can only impact upon our physical bodies; no persecutor has the ability to diminish or destroy our soul that power only rests with Him who created it. For this reason Jesus tells us that the only being we should fear is our Father in Heaven. If we breach the laws of the Gospel and fall short of the mark it is only He who can respect our rejection of His love by denying us eternal grace in Heaven. In contrast to this, if we accept the love of God in our lives then God will reward us abundantly with an eternity in His presence.
So you may be left wondering what prompted this discussion about fear between Jesus and the Disciples and how persecution factored into that. If we examine the exchange in the reading we can see that Christ is talking to the Apostles about spreading the message of salvation, He tells them that whatever they have heard they must tell to others and that if they don’t deny God’s message He will not deny them before God. And so it is with all of us, we are all called to not be afraid and to boldly spread the message of salvation that we have heard.
It can be confronting to think that we are all called to bring others to Christ, to open the paths to Salvation but when you read the scriptures there is really no way to avoid it. So let me ask, what are you doing to spread the message of Christ to others? When I’ve spoken about this with people they often say things like “oh nothing, I don’t know my Bible well enough” or “I can speak to people about Church they’ll think I’m a Bible Basher”. But the first step in bringing others to Christ is being an example to them. Right now you could all be, relaxing, enjoying a lazy Sunday, reading the paper and having a Cuppa, but instead you’re here, reading this sermon and that will have an impact on your actions throughout the week I am sure.
Don’t be afraid to get involved in the good works already happening in your community and equip yourself with knowledge to help you face the harsh realities of life and to be ready to fulfil your divine purpose on earth. It is my prayer that throughout the coming week you may all be strengthened by the Spirit that God may bind up your wounds and heal you so that you can begin the process of becoming that which he created you to be; that you can boldly go forward, unafraid and proclaim Christ and his Salvation.
Let us pray:
by the light of the Holy Spirit
you have taught the hearts of your faithful.
In the same Spirit
help us to relish what is right
and always rejoice in your consolation.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.