"Without fear we sang in prisons 30 feet beneath the earth. We were terribly hungry, beaten, and tortured. The Communists were good at torturing us. We would say to each other, 'The Communists beat us very well - let us do our work well. Let us sing well.'" - Richard Wurmbrand, spent 14 years in a Communist prison in Romania during the Cold War
Gospel Text: (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.”
Upon reading today’s Gospel from Mass the Apostles must be asking each other, “Did I really sign up for this?” With that thought in mind, their connection with Jesus was so strong and his message so compelling they not only did not back down, but they went out with a fervor that influences us today.
What does Jesus’ commissioning mean for us disciples today? After all, we are threatened neither by “Nero nor Nazi” here in the United States of America currently. To be sure, we face hostility. To live and express our faith in our culture is to incite ridicule and accusations of intolerance and hate. Our temptation is to behave like frightened sheep.
In such times, we are to heed Jesus’ counsel. We must discern the sign of the times; act prudently, proclaiming the gospel in the midst of growling wolves. And we are to live out our faith boldly and selflessly. In the Thomistic definition of Christian love, we are to will the good of the other – like serpent and dove.
When internal and external conflict arises, it is through our faith, words, and actions that we breathe life into the world and prepare ourselves to endure, to celebrate, and to be saved not only temporally, but eternally.