First Reading: Jr 20:10-13; Psalm: 69. R. v. 13c; Second Reading: Rm 5:12-15 Gospel: Mt 10:26-33?
THE CHALLENGES OF THE CHRISTIAN FAITH
BY FR VALENTINE NNAMDI EGBUONU, MSP
What we are about to reflect on today is disturbing but it’s not something new. It is disturbing because it will cause us anxiety and worry if we chose to accept it. It may even challenge our faith either positively or negatively. And this is why we must listen with the ears of faith and discern wisely for our salvation depends on the choices we make.
If we must be very honest, we would all agree that Christianity is not a very fascinating religion because it asks too much from us; and Jesus made it so. Christianity is like a square peg trying to fit into a world of round hole. The language it speaks does not correlate with the language the world understands. It is like trying to rehabilitate a world completely spoiled by evil. Christianity is asking us to love in a world that knows hate. It is asking us to give in a world that is accustomed to greed. It is asking us to practice forgiveness and forbearance in a world that understands violence and retaliation. To be a Christian, we have to be just in a world that speaks injustice; and preach peace to a people attuned to fighting.
There is practically nothing about being a Christian that agrees to the standard of the world yet we live in the world. This is why it is very tough to be a Christian. This was why Jesus was persecuted. In fact, this was why Jesus didn’t live long. And the gospel of today precisely stands on this plinth. We are planted on a hostile foundation; a very uncomfortable foundation that can cave in anytime to our destruction. This really is disturbing.
Exactly a week ago, we read from the gospel of Matthew chapter ten how Jesus sent out the twelve to preach and heal diseases. In the subsequent verses of this same chapter, Jesus however added a caveat. The twelve shall be persecuted, betrayed and killed. It was as a follow up to this warning that the gospel of today began with the heartening words, “Have no fear of men; for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known.” What is it that was fascinating about sending these men out like sheep among wolves? And Jesus must be kidding to tell them not to be afraid. You cannot beat a child and expect the child not to cry. You cannot predict evil and expel the tension of fear that goes along with it. This is reality check.
Jesus also alluded that the truth would always prevail when he said that whatever is covered shall be revealed, and whatever is hidden shall be known. Jesus faced aspersion from his opponents. He was called Beelzebub to discredit his gospel of truth; but the world would later come to know that he is the Messiah. Truly, the truth would always prevail but when exactly this would happen may not be favourable to the bringer of that truth.
Jesus was killed before the truth he preached was accepted by many. The apostles were martyred for the faith of the Church to grow. Several believers were persecuted and killed by Saul before Saul turned a new leaf. Many parents suffered and died building a good name but did not live to reap the fruits of their good deeds now enjoyed by their children. The good names of many people have been defamed causing them emotional and psychological harm only for the truth to surface thereafter. This again is the reason Christianity isn’t attractive. We cannot throw our weight around and force things to happen but would have to trust in God’s own time.
There are so many disturbing conditions that we must shoulder to remain faithful to the demands of the Christian faith. This can cause us anxiety and fear and even threaten our peace. The bar is obviously very high. The prophet Jeremiah lamented and prayed the Lord to come to his rescue. Terror pressed on him on every side yet he waited on the Lord to bring vengeance on his oppressors at the Lord’s own appointed time. But Jeremiah would eventually be killed as a prophet by the enemies of the truth he preached.
We would not always get the things we desired if we remained faithful but we must not lose faith notwithstanding. The job we lost because we chose to be upright may never be recovered again but we have to remain good anyway. The vindication we prayed for may not come earlier as anticipated but we would have to trust in God anyway. Your spouse or child may not survive that cancer but we have to believe in the love of God anyway. We may not succeed where others have succeeded but we have to trust in the plan of God anyway. This steadfastness despite the challenges of the faith is what Jesus asks of us today.
“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground without your father’s will. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered.” God takes account of every single experience we pass through. We may not have the right defence to explain why God allowed certain things to happen to us; but one thing is sure. If we remained faithful, our salvation is guaranteed. For anyone who acknowledges Christ before men, Christ shall acknowledge before his Father in heaven. But whoever denies Christ before men shall also be denied by Christ before his Father in heaven. Let us hang in there; God’s grace is sufficient for us.
PRAYER FOR THE DAY
Lord Jesus Christ, we pray that we may grow in faith and steadfastness so that we may remain faithful to you to the very end. Amen.