Jesus said to his Apostles:
“No disciple is above his teacher,
no slave above his master.
It is enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher,
for the slave that he become like his master.
If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul,
how much more those of his household!
“Therefore do not be afraid of them.
Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed,
nor secret that will not be known.
What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light;
what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops.
And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul;
rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy
both soul and body in Gehenna.
Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin?
Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge.
Even all the hairs of your head are counted.
So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
Everyone who acknowledges me before others
I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father.
But whoever denies me before others,
I will deny before my heavenly Father.”
The notion that no disciple or slave could have a higher status than his teacher or master needs no explanation. Similarly, it was expected that the disciple should become like his teacher and that the slave should share in the lot of his master. The disciples, however, do not anticipate how harshly their teacher and Lord will be rejected.
The Jewish leaders associate Jesus with Beelzebul, a name for Satan that literally means “Lord of the House,” with reference to Satan’s power in this world. The Pharisees will accuse Jesus of driving out demons by the power of “Beelzebul, the prince of demons,” and on the basis of this accusation will plot to kill him. If this is what they do to the true master of the house (Jesus), those of his household (the disciples) should not expect better treatment. They too will be rejected and persecuted.
Yet the disciples must not be afraid of their opponents. They must still proclaim the gospel. It would be tempting to stop preaching the gospel or to soften its message in order to make things easier and protect themselves from suffering. But Jesus entrusts the full gospel message to his disciples, and others are dependent on them to proclaim it for their salvation. Therefore, Jesus says, even though they will be persecuted like their teacher and Lord, they must not be afraid. What they learned from Jesus they must speak in the light, not being afraid to proclaim it on the housetops.
Such bold proclamation may lead to martyrdom. If faced with the choice between dying for the sake of Christ or denying him to save one’s life, we must remember that the worst thing our enemies can do is kill the body; they cannot kill the soul. Better to save one’s soul than to save one’s physical life. Therefore we should fear God much more than our persecutors, for only God has power over the body and soul. In other words, we should have a healthy fear of the Lord because God alone can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.
In the face of persecution, if the disciple acknowledges Jesus before his enemies, Jesus will acknowledge him before my heavenly Father, so that even if his enemies harm his body God will save his soul. But the disciple who rejects Christ to save his life here on earth cannot rely on Jesus to defend him on judgment day: whoever denies me before others, I will deny before my heavenly Father.
In sum, Jesus addresses the Twelve in a very straightforward way about the opposition they will encounter on the mission he is giving them. Matthew records these words for future disciples, whose lot will be the same.
Friends, Jesus instructs his disciples in today’s Gospel, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both body and soul in Gehenna.”
What is the greatest fear we have? Undoubtedly, the fear of losing our own lives; we fear the death of the body. But Jesus is telling us not to worry about those paper tigers that can only affect the body and its goods.
When I am in love with God, when I am “fearing” him above all things, I am rooted in a power that transcends space and time, a power that governs the universe in its entirety, a power that is greater than life and death.
More to it, this power knows me intimately and guides me according to his purposes: “Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge. Even all the hairs of your head are counted. So do not be afraid.” Because of this we have nothing to fear from anything or anybody here below.
– Bishop Robert Barron
May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.