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Homilies/Reflections

DEALING AND COPING WITH INTENSE OPPOSITION. A reflection for 12th Sunday of the Ordinary Time, Year A.
By Fr. Modestus Mgbaramuko
Sun, 21 Jun 2020

There can be times when opposition and criticisms are not only intense but misguided and unending. At such points, what we know from everyday experience is that people cave into mutual resentments and scorn, or take the part of reciprocal vengeance. Today’s Gospel lesson is intense in the way it acknowledges the presence of persecution. Still, it is more remarkable in what it recommends for dealing with situations of disparaging opposition and destructive criticism. Jesus tells us to deal with it, and he explains how!

     The background which immediately ushers in today’s Gospel’s reading highlights on the “people” who hurry to hand “you” over to courts, and those who take pleasure in having “you” scourged at their Synagogues - Mt 10:17). The instruction of Jesus, which follows after today’s Gospel passage, is his insistence that “whoever does not carry his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of me.” According to Jesus, respect for one’s father and mother or the values of the family are not sufficient excuses for putting God into second place. (Mt 10:37-38). Our Gospel passage is sandwiched in-between these situations.

    From the other readings, we equally learn that sinful condition and the terror that associate with sin is not new. Especially from the first reading, we confirm that instances of sinful behaviors like intense opposition, destructive criticism, intimidation, and persecution are as real in ancient times as they are in modern times. “Terror on every side,” even from trusted friends, Jeremiah laments (20:13). We also recognize that the Church’s full awareness of the challenges to faith informs the opening invocation to God in today’s mass. The opening prayer is that we may always revere and love God’s holy name; that is, trusting that God never fails to guide those who stand firm amidst the challenges.

  Jesus’ response to persecution or the intense antagonism that one faces in one’s faith-convictions are the same responses that play out in Jesus’ own life. His tripartite affirmative reassurance in today’s Gospel tells us: “Do not fear” (appears in the three verses Mt 10:26, 28 and 31). The fear of failing God should be what matters far more than the worry of facing threats from human beings. Thus, today’s Gospel context of standing with one’s faith in the face of antagonisms of different kinds serves as a unifying principle, helping us to understand both the first reading and the Gospel. We should notice this in the active part of Jeremiah’s reaction to his worries, and persecution is his submission to God. In his conclusion, “but the Lord is on my side;” he also says, “I have committed my cause to you (Jer 20:12).”

  Jesus tells us to deal with hate by reliance on God’s care. By Jesus’ repetition and emphasis, the guidance to reject fear ceases to be advisory or suggestive but becomes a central command. The charge to reject fear regards the mission to which Jesus calls. In our time, the “call” of Jesus is not limited to the proclamation we inherited from the apostles. By our baptism, it includes all the different charisms and services that we all perform for the faith in our different manners or degrees as members of the baptized people of God. In this sense, Jesus insists that a life lived for God in truth, even amidst persecution, is the priceless life.

  Let no one declare for himself or herself in the work of Jesus. Let all those who believe in mutual persecution realize that they have ceased doing the work of Jesus to doing the deeds of darkness. Above all, let those who glory in destructive criticism know that it is never enough to tear down structures. It is even more praiseworthy to give a positive influence because the devil and the devil’s agents are those who come to steal and kill and destroy.

 

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