Yesterday’s gospel reading (Mt 10:24-33) continues relaying Jesus’ instructions to His apostles as He prepares to send them out to spread the Good News. In this part of the discourse, Jesus emphasizes the need for courage under the persecution that is sure to come for all of them, Jesus in the first place.
This message was particularly powerful to early Christians, many of whom first hand were experiencing persecution, sometimes even to death, due to their faith. And it has heartened numerous souls throughout the ages who have undergone similar trials. So it is for us today, whether it be those of us in the west whose Christianity, more and more, is the subject of ridicule and scorn and whose religious freedom is being threatened and even violated, or, even worse, those the world over who suffer death through genocide for clinging to Christ.
A key verse in the passage, that which closes it, is the one highlighted in the heading of this post. In considering this sentence, I cannot help but think of Jesus’ words earlier in Matthew (6:23; cf. Lk 11:35): “if the light in you is darkness, how great will the darkness be.” When powerful persons or popular opinion makes good evil and evil good we are in deep trouble, existential trouble. When Jesus is portrayed as a “hater” and His Word “hate speech” then God Himself is being defied. This sacrilege is not going unnoticed and never has. Just recall when the Israelites in the desert, who had recently miraculously won their freedom from oppression in Egypt, accused Yahweh of murderous intent. They received a just punishment of venomous snakes in their midst (Num 21:4-9).
Fyodor Bruni, Moses and the Brazen Serpent (1840)
Today those snakes take the form of public figures (some calling themselves Christian) and mass movements advocating sin and denouncing virtue.
We must stay strong and uncompromising. Take Jesus’ words in this same passage to heart:
You will be hated by all because of my name, but whoever endures to the end will be saved. (v. 22)
And what does it mean to be saved?