Jesus said to his disciples:
“Beware of men, for they will hand you over to courts
and scourge you in their synagogues,
and you will be led before governors and kings for my sake
as a witness before them and the pagans.
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 will not be you who speak
but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
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,
but whoever endures to the end will be saved.”
10:18 governors and kings The highest officials. Jesus is looking beyond his mission and predicting what would happen to His followers in the future. (Compare Acts 4:1–22; 12:1–4; 14:5.)
10:20 speaking through you Jesus promises that the Holy Spirit will give them the appropriate words to speak. Matthew has mentioned the Holy Spirit in connection with Jesus’ ministry (Matt 1:18, 20; 3:11, 16; 4:1), and here the Spirit is extended to the ministry of the disciples.
10:21 brother will hand over brother to death Jesus predicts that His followers will face persecution and betrayal by those closest to them.
10:22 will be saved Elsewhere, it is clear that salvation is dependent on Christ alone (compare John 3:16–17). It seems that here Jesus is contrasting those with true faith (compare Matt 13:18–23)—which proves itself through endurance, in the midst of persecution—with those who are willing to sacrifice their faith (v. 10; compare 10:22). Faith requires action and perseverance (25:14–30).
The instructions and warnings Jesus gives here apply right through the history of the Church. It is difficult for the world to understand the way of God. Sometimes there will be persecutions, sometimes indifference to the Gospel or failure to understand it. Genuine commitment to Jesus always involves effort—which is not surprising, because Jesus himself was a sign of contradiction; indeed, if that were not the experience of a Christian, he would have to ask himself whether he was not, in fact, a worldly person.
Today we celebrate the martyrdom of St. Stephen. Martyrs like Stephen are witnesses who have given their lives for the faith, participating in the bloody death of Jesus himself. They are part of the great chorus that gives praise to Christ in heaven. The Lamb has become their shepherd, leading them to springs of life-giving water. The twentieth was the Christian century with the most martyrs ever, in fact, more than all the other centuries combined.
There are certain worldly things a Christian cannot compromise about, no matter how much they are in fashion. Therefore, Christian life inevitably involves nonconformity with anything that goes against faith and morals (cf. Rom 12:2). It is not surprising that a Christian’s life often involves choosing between heroism and treachery. Difficulties of this sort should not make us afraid: we are not alone, we can count on the powerful help of our Father God to give us strength and daring. St. Stephen, pray for us!
May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.