When it comes to steadfast faithfulness in doing God’s work, Jesus is our supreme role model. Jesus’ entire life was totally devoted to the work of God on earth. We remember also the prophets, the apostles, the Saints, and role models like the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Reverend Oscar Romero. They were single-mindedly and sacrificially committed to God’s call to mission.
In Sunday’s gospel (Matthew 10:24-39), Jesus is preparing His twelve disciples for their mission to bring “the lost sheep of the house of Israel” into God’s fold. They will go in His power and authority. But before they leave, He prepares them for possible opposition and persecution. He instructs them on the absolute faithful Christ-centered lives they would need to live for success in spreading the good news of the gospel.
The disciples were sent to proclaim in word and in healing ministry the good news that God sent Jesus into the world to bring salvation to all who believe; to the poor, the sick and all who reside on the margins of society. Some would reject the disciples’ message and persecute or wrongly accuse them, just like they did Jesus. But Jesus told the disciples not to fear those who opposed them. “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”
Jesus’ message was that while those who have the power to kill the disciples for proclaiming the good news may seem to pose the greater danger, denying Jesus would bear more dire consequences, even condemnation. Faithfulness to God may bring hardship but fear not, God upholds and exalts the persecuted. And faithfulness to God leads to eternal rewards because of God’s boundless welcoming love.
But is it truly possible for the disciples and us, lowly humans not be afraid when facing persecution, jeering, or criticism? Jesus’ exhortation to have no fear and to remain faithful (take up the cross) is to be viewed from God’s loftier long-term perspective, God’s plan for salvation and eternal life for all. God engages disciples and us to participate in the transformative mission of turning people’s hearts to God. Seeking only short-term good, we are tempted to sacrifice God’s mission and succumb to the pressure of being unfaithful to the good news of Christ, denying Him for the sake of eliminating opposition, maintaining friendships or meeting our ego needs. The true cost of discipleship is an interior conviction of the abiding truth of God’s word and absolute commitment to His way of life that makes us “die to self” and be “alive to God in Christ Jesus.”
Thanks be to God, for His loving and patient forbearance, for we are not always the faithful missionary disciples we ought to be. “You O Lord, are good and forgiving, and great is your love to all who call upon you.” (Psalm 86:5).