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The mission of the Twelve

Gospel Reading: Mt 10:26-33
Jesus said to the Twelve: “Fear no one. Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret that will not be known. What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light; what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna. Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge. Even all the hairs of your head are counted. So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. Everyone who acknowledges me before others I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father. But whoever denies me before others, I will deny before my heavenly Father.”

In the preface to his book Let Go of Fear, Carlos Valles shares how on a leisurely bicycle ride in a lonely countryside road he is stopped by an unusual sight. In the low grass is a cobra, half coiled, half-erect, with its hood spread out and its tongue flickering danger. On the branch of a nearby bush is perched a little bird paralyzed with fear. The bird has wings, but is unable to fly. It has a larynx, but is unable to sing. It is frozen, stiff, mesmerized. Fear holds the bird. Though the vast expanse of the sky is open to it, the prey cannot escape.

Fear haunts all of us. We worry about persons, events, things. We fret over job and possessions, health of body and spirit, welfare and security of loved ones. We are afraid of the varied dangers that threaten our life and disturb our peace of mind. These concerns explain our frantic efforts and frazzled nerves; they visit as nightmares in our troubled sleep.

In the Gospel, the Apostles have reason to be apprehensive about their mission of proclaiming the Kingdom and witnessing to Jesus. True, their Master has just given them authority to expel unclean spirits and to heal diseases.

But he has also warned them that their message will not find an easy hearing. They will be entering dens of wolves, filled with hostile forces bent to kill them. They will be maligned and haled before courts, persecuted and murdered.

Jesus addresses their apprehensions by bidding them three times: “Do not be afraid.” They are not to allow themselves to be intimidated or to be crippled by fear.

He tells them that there is nothing concealed that will not be revealed, and no secret that will not be known. The message that they have listened to attentively and received from him they are to speak with boldness.

Jesus also says that the disciples need not fear the things or people who can hurt superficially but cannot harm the spirit. No bodily harm human beings can inflict approximates the real death that only separation from God brings.

Finally, Jesus assures the Apostles that they have no reason to be afraid of anything because they are in God’s hands. The heavenly Father’s loving care extends not only to big things like armies in battle, but also to intimate little details like the life of a sparrow. If God attends to sparrows, an entire flock of which is nowhere near the worth of a human being, how much more does he look after the disciples whose every hair is numbered.

How comforting it is to know that God’s providential care for us is always there, even in the smallest details of our lives. Our concerns and preoccupations, our misfortunes and tragedies, our nightmares and disasters—these are all in the hands of a loving Father. Despite appearances, God is absolutely in control. There is nothing to fear.

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SOURCE: “365 Days with the Lord,” ST PAULS, 7708 St. Paul Rd., SAV, Makati City (Phils.); Tel.: 895-9701; Fax 895-7328; E-mail: publishing@stpauls.ph; Website: http://www.stpauls.ph.