The memory of Jesus’ execution is still very recent. For the Christian communities various versions of his passion circulated about. All knew that it was dangerous to follow someone who had ended up so badly. A phrase of Jesus was recalled: «The disciple isn’t greater than the master». If they called him Beelzebub, what won’t they say about his followers?
Jesus didn’t want his disciples to have false illusions. No one can try to follow him truly without sharing his fortune in some way. At some time someone will reject, mistreat, insult or condemn us. What to do?
The answer comes out of Jesus from within us: «Don’t be afraid of them». Fear is evil. It should never paralyze his disciples. They shouldn’t be quiet. They shouldn’t stop propagating his message for any reason at all.
Jesus explains to them how they should position themselves in time of persecution. With him has already begun the revelation of the Good News of God. They ought to trust. Whatever is still «covered up» and «hidden» for many will one day be obvious: God’s Mystery will be made known, along with God’s love for all human beings and God’s project of a happier life for all.
Jesus’ followers are called to take part right now in that process of revelation: «What I say to you in the dark, tell in the daylight». What he explains to them in the evening, before retiring to rest, they must communicate fearlessly «in daylight». «What you hear in whispers, proclaim from the housetops». What he murmurs to them so that it penetrates deeply in their hearts, they must make public.
Jesus insists that they don’t fear. «Whoever is with me», has nothing to fear. The last judgment will be a joyful surprise. The judge will be «my Father in heaven», the one who loves you without end. The defender will be I myself, who «takes your part». Who better to plant hope in us in the midst of trials?
Jesus imagines his followers as a group of believers who know how to «take his part» fearlessly. Why are we so far from free in opening up new paths that are more faithful to Jesus? Why don’t we dare to plant what’s essential of the Gospel in ways that are simple, clear and concrete?
Jose Antonio Pagola
Translator: Fr. Jay VonHandorf