“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and simple as doves.” ~ Matthew 10:16
In today’s Gospel (Matthew 10:16-23), Jesus foreshadows a number of seemingly outlandish and tragic scenarios that await those who seek to live a life rooted in his teachings. “Brother will hand over brother to death, and the father his child; children will rise up against parents and have them put to death.“ . . .
“You will be hated by all because of my name.....”
It was the prolific modern-day Christian Apologist G.K. Chesterton who said, and not that long ago I might add, “We shall soon be in a world in which a man may be howled down for saying that two and two make four, in which people will persecute the heresy of calling a triangle a three-sided figure, and hang a man for maddening a mob with the news that grass is green.”
As is the case with many of Chesterton’s brilliant prophecies, that day has come to fruition. Did you ever think, for instance, that in your lifetime you would wake up one morning to find out that the definition of marriage would be radically changed? Not only that, if you held true to the “old definition,” the one given to us by our God, that you would be branded a homophobe? Did the word “homophobe” even exist 15 years ago?
Today our Church celebrates the Memorial of Saint Augustine Zhao Rong, a Chinese diocesan priest who along with his 119 companions was martyred during the Boxer Rebellion. “Every piece of my flesh, every drop of my blood will tell you that I am Christian,” said one of his fellow martyrs moments prior to his execution for refusing to renounce his Catholic Faith. About a month ago, on June 3rd to be exact, we celebrated the Feast Day of Saint Charles Lwanga, a man who along with his 21 companions, suffered a similar fate to that of Saint Augustine Zhao Rong, his martyrdom taking place in Namugongo, Uganda in the year 1886.
In a world where many Catholics today are unwilling to defend the truth simply out of fear of being unpopular in the eyes of the those who, if we were to be honest, don’t even matter, how were these Saints able to stare down their executioners without so much as the blink of an eye?
They clearly took to heart Jesus’ words in today’s Gospel when he told his disciples “When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are you say. For it will not be you who speaks but the Spirit of the Father speaking through you.” Cultivation of the spiritual gifts needed to endure tribulations of that magnitude does not happen over night. Very few of us will face what these great Saints did in their lives, yet we are nonetheless called to fight the spiritual battle, the “good fight” as Saint Paul liked to say (2 Timothy 4:7-8).
To be “shrewd,” as Jesus calls us to be in the quote that kicks off today’s Reflection, we must seek wisdom, perhaps the greatest of the Holy Spirit’s powerful gifts. The peaceful simplicity that Jesus demands of us requires self-control, a willingness to instead peacefully and respectfully move on, to “shake the dust from your feet” as Jesus instructs his disciples to do in yesterday’s Gospel (Matthew 10:7-15) whenever you encounter those who are not children of the light (1 Thessalonians 5:5). Our gifts of time and talent are simply far too valuable to squander.
God has equipped all of us to bring his message of forgiveness and mercy to a beleaguered and wounded world. As His children, we have everything we need. We have the truth.
For more on this Gospel, please revisit the following Reflection: