Gospel: Mt 10:16-23
Look, I send you out like sheep among wolves. You must be as clever as snakes and as innocent as doves. Be on your guard with people, for they will hand you over to their courts, and they will flog you in their synagogues. You will be brought to trial before rulers and kings because of me, so that you may witness to them and the pagans.
But when you are arrested, do not worry about what you are to say, or how you are to say it; when the hour comes, you will be given what you are to say. For it will not be you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father, speaking through you.
Brother will hand over his brother to death, and a father his child; children will turn against their parents and have them put to death. Everyone will hate you because of me, but whoever stands firm to the end will be saved.
When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next. I tell you the truth, you will not have passed through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.
The gospel reading provides us a glimpse of the challenges the early Christians had to face, at a time when it was dangerous to be Christian. The believers had to practice their faith always at the risk of persecution and martyrdom. The systematic harassment was state-sponsored. The religious establishment labelled them rebels. Their families ridiculed and rejected them. In spite of these they remained firm and steadfast. The Lord was faithful to his promise to send them the Holy Spirit to guide and empower them, to give them the words they had to say.
The challenges to Christian discipleship today are quite different but not less demanding or distressing. They come with different names: secularism, relativism, materialism, hedonism and others more. Jesus’ teachings will necessarily disturb minds and hearts of people who consider them threats to their value-system and comfortable lifestyle. This could fuel hatred, persecution and martyrdom. We need not worry. Take courage. God is on our side. But we need to be wise, exercise caution and prudence.