Fear not even martyrdom, Jesus tells apostles

in the beginning
Father Mike Stubbs is the pastor of Holy Cross Parish in Overland Park and has a degree in Scripture from Harvard University.

by Father Mike Stubbs

In the sports world, before an important game, a coach will often give the players a pep talk.

In a sense, that is what Jesus is doing in Sunday’s Gospel reading, Mt 10:26-33. He wishes to encourage the apostles before sending them out on mission. He knows that they will face many difficulties, so he wants to strengthen them for their work.

Jesus tells the apostles three times not to be afraid. He also supplies reasons for them to have courage.

First of all, God loves them and will protect them: “Even all the hairs of your head are counted. So do not be afraid.”

Secondly, those who oppose them cannot do any permanent harm: “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.”

Thirdly, Jesus offers a reason which may very well surprise us: “Fear no one. Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed.”

In other words, the truth will out. For some, this might be a frightening prospect, but not for the apostles. For example, human dictatorships attempt to suppress the truth. They will frequently resort to censorship, because they fear the truth.

That is why the apostles will eventually face imprisonment, why the early Christians will face persecution. They are spreading the truth.

And despite the opposition they encounter, the truth of the Gospel will be made manifest. Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed. The mission that the apostles are carrying out is unstoppable.

The efforts of the apostles to reveal the truth may well lead to their martyrdom. But that is not a reason for them to fear: “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.”

In announcing the truth, the apostles will be doing the will of God. That will win them God’s favor: “Everyone who acknowledges me before others I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father.” That gives another reason for them not to fear.

Jesus’ exhortation to the apostles not to fear echoes the message to various individuals in the Bible. Early on, God says to the man who eventually will be called Abraham, “Fear not, Abram” (Gn 15:1).

Later, when the archangel Gabriel announces to Mary that she will become the mother of Jesus, he tells her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God” (Lk 1:30).

In other words, a caution against fear often accompanies the message that comes to us from God.

If God sends us on a mission, God wishes to strengthen us to carry it out. That means: Have no fear.

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