June 25, 2017
Twelfth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A
After the long period of Lent, Easter Time, and the Solemnities of the Lord, today we are resuming the course of the Sundays of Ordinary Time.
We are in chapter 10 of the Gospel of Matthew, which relates, in its entirety, Jesus’ discourse on mission: Jesus sends His disciples to announce the good news of the Kingdom, He gives them some indications of the attitude that must distinguish them, and tells them in no uncertain terms that their mission will encounter obstacles and rejections: persecution will not be an exception, but an integral part of the mission, because the message the disciples announce is much more compared with that of the world, and the world does not recognize or accept what is not its own.
So they must be prepared to be despised, rejected, scoffed at: it will be the opportunity to grow in conformity to their Master and Lord, and to give testimony.
In today’s passage, the invitation to not be afraid comes back repeatedly: “Do not be afraid, for nothing is concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret that will not be known” (Mt 10:26).
Immediately there are two striking aspects: the first is that one is asked not to be afraid, as if it were possible, in the face of a danger, to prevent the natural reaction of alarm and fear.
And the second is the link between fear and the words that follow: there is no need to be afraid, because everything will be made manifest. What does it mean?
There is another occasion in Matthew’s gospel where this connection between fear and concealment reappears: in Chapter 25, and the account is the parable of the talents. Servants who have received different talents are before their master with confidence and trust; but the servant who received one talent is afraid, and hid his talent, instead of making it fruitful; and the master is very severe with him (Mt 25, 14-30).
If we search closely, there are other episodes where the fear-hiding combination reappears: for example, on the Easter evening, when the evangelist John says that the Apostles, for fear of the Jews, are closed and hidden in a room with the doors locked (Jn 20:19). And if we go along further, we find the same dynamics at the beginning of history, where we find the first couple, who, after the sin, are afraid of the Lord, and are hiding (Gn. 3, 8-10)
Then we come to think that fear necessarily entails closing and hiding the gift that has been received; and that this, in the end, is not just a personal problem, of each one, but becomes a counter-witness, a missed mission.
If, on the other hand, the attitude that controls me is trust, then this trust will be my testimony, because I will announce, by my trust, the relationship that sustains me and that makes me live: the message that I announce will be revealed and known (v. 26) just, and only, when my message will not be overshadowed by fear.
But how can you not be afraid?
It is evident in the passages we have quoted that everything depends on relationship: Adam and Eve break relationship with their Creator, and they are afraid. The Apostles, on the Easter evening, are experiencing the loss and grief of their Lord, and believe Him to be absent and far away, and they’re afraid.
And likewise in the parable of talents: the servant has a false image of his master, like a cruel lord and not like a father, and he is afraid.
So it will be of the disciple sent on mission: if he will be afraid, it will be because he will feel alone and will think outside of the relationship with Him who knows even the hairs of his head (v. 30); then he will be as if he must face danger and persecution alone, without Him.
But we’ve celebrated Easter, Ascension, Pentecost, and have experienced the certainty that the Lord is truly with us every day, and that the Spirit, in us, is a living memory of Christ.
And so today we learn that the fruit of the Paschal mystery is a Church on a mission, and that the mission of the Church has the style of total trust and freedom of sons and daughters, who are liberated even from their own lives.