12th Sunday in Ordinary Time – 21st June 2020 — Gospel: Mt 10,26-33
Disciples are to live beyond fear
Jesus recognizes that fear will cause the failure of discipleship. So, He prepares his disciples realistically for the threats they will face in their mission. The threat of persecution, beating, and death leads Jesus to reassure his missionary labourers to live beyond fear, because everything will be revealed and made known. The command ‘not to fear’ is repeated thrice (10,16.28.31) in order to encourage them to follow Jesus’ direction. Even though Jesus warns them of a coming judgment, he emboldens them to have complete confidence in proclaiming God’s kingdom. What Jesus has taught them privately, the disciples must proclaim openly, because the gospel is the most powerful tool at the disciple’s disposal against the powers of this world. Therefore, Jesus gives the disciples three reasons to fear no one but God.
First, they can choose to fear either God, who can take away their soul, or those who can harm them only physically (Prov 29,25; Wis 16,13-14; 2 Macc 6,30). So Jesus urges them to fear God because he can destroy the soul and cast the body into hell. Since disciples share the fate of their master, they should not fear their inevitable persecution and even martyrdom because God will not allow their ultimate harm. God’s power is all surpassing. So they must have proper fear of God: to be safe in a world that cannot give life, although it can take life, and to please the one who will judge the loyalty of people’s hearts.
Second, God is not just like the powers of this world, but He knows and cares for his disciples. So the disciples must realize how valuable they are to God. They should know that God cares for them more than they can possibly care for anything. Just as God watches over every sparrow and numbers every hair on a person’s head, God’s unwavering commitment enables them to trust God for their eternal welfare. The disciples need not fear because they are in the image of God and are far more valuable to God than the birds. God who has ultimate power over our whole being exercises that power with mercy and love.
Third, Jesus encourages his disciples to remain firm in their commitment to Jesus and to their mission. A complete loyalty and attachment to Jesus is demanded of every disciple. A disciple’s public recognition or denial of Jesus in this life anticipates Jesus’ recognition or denial of the disciple in the judgment to come. He underscores again his authority to judge at the end. The disciples should be confident that their confession of Jesus wins them Jesus’ recognition on the last day. To deny Jesus is to face the denial before the Father, which is unbecoming of his disciple.