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(Part 46)


July 12, 2013
Today’s gospel: Matthew 10:16-23

The challenge for mission is not so much that we lack resources, because God will provide, but that we will encounter great opposition and persecution as we confront the enemy. We are weak human beings assaulting the dominion of a powerful spiritual being. That is “like sheep in the midst of wolves” (Mt 10:16a). We are helpless sheep among ravenous and deadly wolves. We will be bruised, we will be bloodied, we might even lose our lives.

So what are we to do? “So be shrewd as serpents and simple as doves.” (Mt 10:16b). Now is that not an oxymoron? We know the serpent to be the evil one, and indeed, in successfully tempting Eve, was described in Genesis as the most cunning of all the animals God created. On the other hand, we look on the dove as the Holy Spirit. Can we be wise as serpents but innocent as doves? Jesus says so, so yes.

The devil used his wisdom in tempting Eve in Eden and Jesus in the desert. But wisdom is of God. It is a gift of the Holy Spirit. Unfortunately we oftentimes go off into the fray with our own human wisdom and not the wisdom of God. To do God’s work, we must put on God’s mind. For example, human wisdom says do not do mission because you do not have the money, while Jesus says go, and do not even take provisions for the journey. So the wisdom we use must be of God, and not of the world. Thus we must be simple as doves, childlike as children, innocent as babes. We must be pure of heart, even as we are wise of mind.

Now Jesus tells the apostles of the trials to come.

  • “they will hand you over to courts” (Mt 10:17b). Committed Christians are now being arrested and taken to court for praying at abortion clinics, for speaking against homosexuality (hate speech), for refusing to offer B&B to gay couples, for homeschooling, for not referring people to abortion providers, for refusing to proscribe contraceptives, etc.
  • they will “scourge you in their synagogues” (Mt 10:17c). Christians who proclaim the gospel in certain nations are beaten, arrested, imprisoned, and even killed.
  • “You will be hated by all because of my name” (Mt 10:22a). The liberal western world hates committed Christians as they stand in the way of their anti-life, anti-family, homosexualist agenda. Western nations and gay activists particularly hate the Catholic Church, as it is the only strong institution standing up against them.

In fact, the divide between the diabolical forces of the enemy and those who stand for God and Church are so wide that splits and animosity will happen even among relatives. “Brother will hand over brother to death, and the father his child; children will rise up against parents and have them put to death.” (Mt 10:21). Liberals and progressives are against those who are traditional and orthodox. Spouses have taken opposing sides, as also with parents and children, long-time friends, neighbors, co-workers, even Catholics among themselves. Liberals have not quite gone to the extent of putting their opponents to death, but we will get there.

How do we survive? Through perseverance, patience, persistence, endurance, long-suffering, tolerance, forgiveness. Indeed, “whoever endures to the end will be saved.” (Mt 10:22b). Given the intensity of persecution, however, how can we endure? On our own strength we cannot. But God who sends us also provides the strength and wisdom we need. When we are handed over to secular authorities to be prosecuted, we “do not worry about how (we) are to speak or what (we) are to say. You will be given at that moment what you are to say.” (Mt 10:19). In other words, in the most difficult trial, God will be there for us. God will provide whatever we need. God will not abandon us.

In fact, God is always able to overturn the devil’s diabolical wisdom. The enemy causes us to “be led before governors and kings for (Jesus’) sake” (Mt 10:18a). But that provides us with a platform to be “a witness before them and the pagans.” (Mt 10:18b). Who knows? God can touch ignorant minds and hard hearts with the gospel we stand for. We have been sent by Jesus, who wants salvation for all. So we do not worry, but we rather rejoice in the opportunity occasioned by persecution. After all, we are but God’s instruments. So we know that God will use us, specially in the direst of circumstances. “For it will not be you who speak but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” (Mt 10:20).

In persecution we cling more to God, are more mindful of our total dependence on Him, and need to grow in faith and trust in His divine providence and care, aside from being purified. Yes, persecution will bring its own rewards.

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