Brave, like sparrows

The presence of God’s Kingdom among us (in the church) is not something to take for granted. The fact that the saving mysteries of our faith have come to us personally should astound us. We receive the gifts we live by from God. It is even more astounding to notice that this is so because He entrusted everything to people like us; they were sent to pass on what He taught them. What He shared with them was meant to be shared with others.

 

In Matthew 10, we learn how Jesus prepared His disciples to share the mysteries of His Kingdom. This preparation went like this (in paraphrase): Go to the people of Israel who have stopped believing. Tell them that the Kingdom is at hand, that the long awaited Savoir has arrived. They will not necessarily receive this news well. You will be like sheep facing wolves. People will hand you over to the public officials and even synagogue officials will punish you for what you say. But don’t worry. When this happens, the Spirit of God the Father will tell you what to say and will “speak through you.” And also, “you will be hated by all because of my name.”

(As a disclaimer, that context is given because the past two Sundays (Holy Trinity and Corpus Christi) had special specific readings, meaning we re-enter this “ordinary” chapter of the Gospel in the middle of it.)

In this Sunday’s selection we need to know what He has just told them. As excited and enthused as they may have been, the challenges and dangers Jesus has predicted were sobering to them. Knowing this, how does He help them? The “strategy” Jesus employs conveys to them His own perspective as He prepares to accomplish His mission on this earth. The Message of salvation is found in Him, in Him personally. Nonetheless, the responses people gave Him were not always receptive or welcoming. Moving ever closer to His hour, Jesus prepared Himself to give everything so that all people might be made free and might have everlasting life in Him. His Saving mission included obedience to His Father’s will and total trust in the Father’s protection. He knew what He faced and He knew the reason — and the outcome.

The mission of these disciples at this stage of the Gospel of Matthew was to proclaim the arrival of the Kingdom. It is something of a “trial run.” The victory of Jesus is far from accomplished. The encouragement He gives them matches the powerful victories they will later win for Him after His Resurrection. The encouragement He gives them requires a mature response. Another paraphrase: Up till now I have been telling you in secret the truths everyone should live by. I did not come to offer these saving truths just to you. They need to be proclaimed and made known far and wide by you. If you take to heart everything I’ve been telling you, you will recognize something transformative: you are safe and protected because of me. The willingness you have to stand with me and for me brings to you eternal protection from all enemies, even death. My Father even watches out for little birds. You are more valuable than they are. The quiet secrets I have shared with you can’t stay secret anymore.

Throughout the history of Christianity, the weak have confounded the strong. God the Father’s Spirit comes to the little ones who proclaim the Son. It is true that God never abandons us. It is also true that we have the freedom to abandon Him. When we trust His promise to take care of us, to protect us even beyond death, we can take our place in His saving mission with great courage. No one calls sparrows courageous. But sparrows do what they are made by God to do. The carefree freedom of the martyrs is an expression of the kind of trust in the Lord we can have. Like the first disciples, we can proclaim what we have heard from Him because we believe it. We can do so without fear, bravely and carefree — like the sparrows.

Fr. Zuberbueler is pastor of St. Louis Church in Alexandria.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2017