Daily Reflections

Matthew 10:16-23

The persecution predicted by the Lord in today’s Gospel does not make easy reading. Jesus’ words are grounded in hard-headed reality and speak of the hostility that his followers may expect when they preach the gospel message. In our own times Christians in parts of the world are still imprisoned, beaten and put to death merely because they preach the gospel. For two thousand years the followers of Jesus have received the same treatment as he did himself, just as he predicted.

In Western society, persecution is more subtle. Western people are unlikely to be imprisoned or experience physical violence. However, they may well encounter animosity, ridicule or ostracism in speaking up for the values enshrined in church teaching and trying to swim against the tide of worldly values. As the late Malcolm Muggeridge once said, ‘Only dead fish swim with the tide.’ The effort involved in having to face, daily, a counter-current of worldly resentment is the very essence of being spiritually alive as a Christian.

It is important to remember that the gospel of salvation is indeed good news. The explanation for this hostility, of course, is the existence of the power of evil that seeks to extinguish true goodness – the same power of evil that tempted and taunted Jesus and took him to the cross. It is disturbing to note that it was the social and religious elite who were hostile to Jesus and his disciples. Their ‘religion’ was not rooted in a true knowledge or love of God, but rather in an adherence to a system of rules with which they felt comfortable. And their power and status depended on the maintenance of the status quo.

It is fascinating that Jesus advised his disciples to be as ‘wise as serpents and innocent as doves’ (v. 16). The innocence of which Jesus speaks is not naivety, as our witness involves all our skills, gifts and faculties. Worldly values – selfishness, arrogance, pride and falsehood – are to have no place in the Christian’s life.

‘Lord, help me to imitate you in all things, even though I am so weak. Give me your courage to speak the truth, your constancy to endure the trials of life, and your love with which to counter the coldness and bitterness in the world.’

Hosea 14:2-10  •  Psalm 50(51):3-4, 8-9, 12-14, 17
Matthew 10:16-23

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