|Matthew 10: 24-39: Difficult words to hear|
A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master; it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more will they malign those of his household! So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground unperceived by your Father. And even the hairs of your head are all counted. So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows. Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven. Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.
You are blessed when you are at the end of your rope. With less of you, there is more of God and his rule. Matthew 5:3, The Message
In sending out his disciples as missionaries, Jesus continues to caution them on the hazards of their journey: they will be treated as Jesus was. They will be falsely accused and maligned. They will be faced with the choice to either witness to Jesus as the Christ, or to deny him. We are invited to see ourselves in the story of Jesus, his teaching and ministry, his passion , his death and resurrection. There is no special immunity from bearing the cross, whether or not I see myself as a missionary. "The disciple is not above his Master.”
But wait! Those who follow Jesus find life. St. Paul called it, in *Romans 6:1-11, “walking in newness of life.” Renewal is a different life, not the same life, warmed over. (I’m thinking of a left-over dish heated up in the microwave). I do not have a “new beginning” without the desolation of the cross. Two noteworthy examples may help us explore the meaning of the cross for ourselves. Are we equipped, in Christ, to discover life, even in loss?
First was the witness of Dr. Viktor Frankl. His watershed book is Man's Search for Meaning. Frankl was a Viennese Neurologist and Psychiatrist. We now know, thanks to his wife, that, while at home, Frankl observed traditional Jewish spiritual practices regularly. His greatest insights came as a prisoner in Hitler's worst death camps, one of which was Auschwitz. Frankl’s scientific mind helped him to discover that, among his fellow prisoners, those who realized and kept their “last freedom” seemed to have a better chance of surviving unimaginable horrors. The “last freedom” was the power to choose one's attitude in a given set of circumstances, to find meaning in that situation. Viktor Frankl carried his wisdom on "the last freedom" out of Auschwitz and into the world, to help thousands of people.
Another example comes from Vincent Donovan, whose story is recounted in Christianity Rediscovered: An Epistle from the Masai. Donovan was a Catholic missionary among the Masai, the tribal community of East Africa. I find parallels with the instructions Jesus gave his missionary apostles in Matthew 10 and Donavan’s missionary experience. Here are some of Donovan’s words:
…a missionary is essentially a social martyr, cut off from his roots, his stock, his blood, his land, his background, his culture. He is destined to walk forever a stranger in a strange land… [This is] the truest meaning of poverty of spirit.
Those who lose their life for Jesus’ sake will find it, promises Jesus. “Do not fear, do not be afraid.” Matthew 10: 26-28 Because our life rests in God’s everlasting arms, we are given a gift that no person and no situation can take away from us. Thanks be to God!