Persecution

Matthew 10: 16-23
Hos 14: 2-10 / Ps 51: 3-4, 8-9. 12-14, 17

You will be given at that moment what you are to say; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
(Matthew 10:19-20)

It’s not for glory or men’s praise
We struggle to proclaim God’s Word;
We’re driven by the Spirit’s grace,
To serve God is enough reward.

Jesus said, “Behold, I am sending you like sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and gentle as doves. But beware of men; for they will hand you over to courts, and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear testimony before them and the Gentiles. When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say. You will be given at that moment what you are to say; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will deliver up brother to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next; for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel, before the Son of man comes.” (Matthew 10: 16-23)

Reflection

Our Lord never watered down His predictions on what His early followers could expect in their mission to spread the Gospel. He was totally honest with them that their journey would not be a walk in the park. The apostles knew the odds that sheep were up against “in the midst of wolves”. Their only chance of survival was to “be shrewd as serpents and gentle as doves”, an oxymoron of a phrase that probably only confused them all the more. For how can one be shrewd as a snake and gentle as a dove at the same time? It was only after Jesus had ascended into heaven and they had received power from the Holy Spirit that they understood the meaning of that phrase. With the gifts they received on Pentecost, such as wisdom and discernment, they would be shrewd enough to recognize the forces of darkness and not be taken in by their lures and snares. But at the same time they would be gentle and forgiving of their enemies, as their Lord was, for conversion to take place.

The prophecy of Jesus in boldly proclaiming the Gospel “before governors and kings,” started with St. Peter, whose Pentecostal oratory led to the conversion of three thousand (Acts 2:37-41). Filled with the Holy Spirit, his speech also amazed all the leaders in the Sanhedrin, who knew him to be a mere uneducated fisherman (Acts 4:13). He was followed by the first Christian martyr, Stephen, who gave a long discourse about the history of Israel’s persecution of its prophets, and in the end even castigated the leaders of the Jews, saying, “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always oppose the Holy Spirit; you are just like your ancestors. Which of the prophets did your ancestors not persecute?” (Acts 8:51-52) His martyrdom marked the beginning of the persecution of the early Church by the Jews, headed by Saul, who would in turn become its greatest spokesman, and the most persecuted saint after his conversion in Damascus.

Following Jesus Christ entails great sacrifices. When Bro. Dante was appointed course leader of a seminar in one of our outreaches, he experienced such an onslaught from the other side, that even his own family was not spared from the battle. His son was driving home one day when a 7-year old student suddenly crossed the road without looking. Only his quick response prevented a major tragedy. The boy was rushed to the hospital, and Bro. Dante had to attend to all the medical needs and matters pertaining to the accident. Inspite of the distraction, he did not excuse himself from the ongoing seminar, which was held almost a hundred kms. away in Gen. Santos City.

Once we receive that important ‘commission’ from the Lord, we will surely be vested with the necessary “weapons” that will enable us to accomplish the responsibilities that He has assigned to us. This is because our Commander-in-Chief will never send us to battle unless we are armed against the trials and adversities that will surely come flying at us like arrows from the enemy. As Christ’s soldiers, we must not be fazed by all sorts of harassments, because we strongly believe that nothing can stand in the way of God’s Word.

Lord, strengthen our will as we fight the good fight of faith for Your kingdom. Amen.

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