In the first Reading, (Jer 20:10-13), Prophet Jeremiah laid bare the challenges he faced as a prophet of the Lord. According to him, he experienced terror “from every side”, people vilified him, even those who were his friends denounced him because his prophetic messages challenged their sinful lifestyle. The people of Israel had a false hope that they can abnegate from the obligation of their covenant with God by cheating, apostatising and being mean to strangers, and yet not face any reprobation because of the presence of the Temple in Jerusalem which symbolised the presence of God among them. Jeremiah brought to their awareness that they were grossly mistaken because retribution awaited them unless they repented of their sins.
Despite the denouncements that he received and the traps that were set for him to falter, Prophet Jeremiah remained steadfast to his ministry as a prophet of the Lord because he committed his cause to the Lord. He encouraged people to, “Sing to the Lord, praise the Lord, for he has delivered the soul of the needy from the hands of evil men.”
In the second Reading, (Rom 5:12-15), Paul reiterated that it was the disobedience of Adam which brought sin into the world. Since Adam personified humanity, everyone following the footsteps of Adam has committed some personal sins. “For all have sinned and forfeited the glory of God”, (Rom 3:23), however, the divine grace that comes to us because of the merit of Christ brings redemption to everyone.
Jesus in today’s Gospel, (Mt 10:26-30), instructed his disciples not to be afraid. He acknowledged that spreading the Good News comes with challenges which may include denouncement from people, imprisonment or even paying the ultimate sacrifice with our lives. However, like Prophet Jeremiah who remained faithful to his ministry as a prophet despite the mud that was thrown at him, Jesus expected his followers to do the same.
The ultimate loss is for one to lose one’s soul; this was the rationale for Christ insisting that we should be guided only by what is pleasing to God, for no human but God has the power and authority to deny us the beatific vision.
After the Ascension of Christ and the descent of the Holy Spirit on Jesus’ disciples, they faced multiple hardships as they proclaimed the Gospel of Christ. We recall that Stephen was murdered and many of Jesus’s disciples were expelled from the Jewish territory. St Paul narrated some of the hardships he faced as follows: “five times I have been given the thirty-nine lashes by the Jews; three times I have been beaten with sticks; once I was stoned; three times I have been shipwrecked, and once I have been in the open sea for a night and a day; continually travelling, I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from brigands, in danger from my own people and in danger from the gentiles, in danger in the towns and in danger in the open country, in danger at sea and in danger from people masquerading as brothers; I have worked with unsparing energy, for many nights without sleep, I have been hungry and thirsty, and often altogether without food or drink; I have been cold and lacked clothing.” (2Cor 11:24-28). The disciples of Jesus were battered and bruised, but they never lost hope because their anchor was in Jesus.
When Jesus said in the Gospel that, “everything that is now covered will be uncovered, and everything now hidden will be made clear’, and again, ‘What I say to you in the dark, tell in the daylight; what you hear in whispers, proclaim from the house-tops.’’ Jesus was reiterating his stance that the Good News should not be a private matter, it is not something we only keep to ourselves. No, it must be shared so that others may come to faith as well.
Divulging what we heard in secret from the house-top is a way of stating that the Good News needs to be proclaimed through words and deeds. Hence, we are invited to own our faith, to be joyous about our encounter with Jesus and to be enthused to proclaim it in season and out of season.
Fr Chinua Okeke CSSp