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Caution: Putting a Sunday homily on the Website is tricky business. All the viewer has is a written text. A homily, on the other hand, is "an oral event". It may not have been said or heard the way it was written. In addition, a roughly ten-minute homily is part of a roughly one-hour worship event in which God and God's people communicate with each other by means of ritual, symbol, song, proclamation, prayer. Not everything in these homilies is original. As a homilist, I rely on and at times borrow from other homilists and writers who are not properly mentioned in this format. I am often indebted to them.

Father William Marrevee, s.c.j.

12th Sunday Ordinary Time A

This Gospel passage is part of the “Mission Discourse” of Jesus as we find it in Matthew’s Gospel. Jesus instructs his followers, his disciples about the conditions and challenges of continuing his mission.

Jesus is honest and realistic enough to know that there are aspects in his mission, in his Gospel that go against the grain, that will not find a favourable hearing, that will not be welcome. That was his own experience. After all, he stands in the line of the prophets like Jeremiah (first reading); and what is said in the psalm is to the point as well. It took Jesus only three years to get serious about being a true witness to God’s Kingdom. In those three years he met enough resistance that got himself rejected, that he got himself crucified for what he stood for. And yet, he stuck to the mission his heavenly Father had entrusted to him.

It is against the background of his own experience that Jesus finds it necessary to caution and to encourage his followers, us:
      - Have no fear.
      - Do not fear.
      - Do not be afraid.

Why might we be fearful when following Jesus? Why might we get ourselves into trouble when we continue the mission of Jesus? What we are reminded of in today’s Gospel is that the mission of Jesus, which we are to continue, has some sharp edges. A Gospel that anybody can buy, a Gospel that questions nothing, a Gospel that meets no resistance in ourselves, in the world around us,…. we can be quite confident such a Gospel is no longer the Gospel of Jesus. At the most it is a domesticated version. And a domesticated version of the Gospel is, in the end, of no good to anyone. It certainly cannot be a Gospel of salvation.

What in the Gospel of Jesus could possible trigger resistance, even to the point of putting someone to death? In the history of the Church we know of martyrs who have died as witnesses to the faith. In our time some speak of a new age of martyrs. There are those who give of themselves and are even prepared to give their lives as witnesses for justice. Among the modern-day martyrs we may count those who are killed or persecuted because of their dedication to the marginal in our world and because of their opposition to various forms of injustice. In earlier centuries Christian were thrown to the lions because of their witness to the faith. Today’s lions are of a different kind. They may be powerful figures, such as dictators or greedy rulers. But they may also take on the form of oppressive political and economic institutions and arrangements that serve the powerful and ignore and victimize the poor, the little voiceless people. Daring to stand up to them, expose and unmask them takes a lot of Gospel-courage. The modern martyrs’ love of the least of Jesus’ brothers and sisters may befall a fate that is very much like that of the earlier martyrs, but now in the form of being ridiculed, of being ostracized, of being marked as trouble makers.

If we as Christians no longer trigger this sort of reaction we have good reason to wonder whether we perhaps are following a domesticated Jesus who may be acceptable to everyone, but who is really of no use to anyone.

But today’s Gospel also reminds us that those who bear witness to the Gospel of Jesus can be reassured that they are under God’s loving care and will have Jesus as their ultimate vindicator.

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