Christians: Sent As Sheep Among Wolves
Jacob and his sons had to be uprooted and to accept the uncertain. Yet God promised to accompany them in the school of trials that prepared them to become his people.
What Jesus says of his apostles-missionaries applies also to all who follow him: they have to live with insecurity. They will be contradicted, ridiculed, perhaps persecuted. The gospel, meant to bring peace, in reality often divides. It sets off, sets apart. It brings division even among those who claim Christ as their Lord. Jesus promised to his disciples then and now his Holy Spirit to stand by their side in their trials.
1 Reading: Genesis 46:1-7, 28-30
Israel set out with all that was his. When he arrived at Beersheba, he offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac. There God, speaking to Israel in a vision by night, called, “Jacob! Jacob!” He answered, “Here I am.” Then he said: “I am God, the God of your father. Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for there I will make you a great nation. Not only will I go down to Egypt with you; I will also bring you back here, after Joseph has closed your eyes.” So Jacob departed from Beersheba, and the sons of Israel put their father and their wives and children on the wagons that Pharaoh had sent for his transport. They took with them their livestock and the possessions they had acquired in the land of Canaan. Thus Jacob and all his descendants migrated to Egypt. His sons and his grandsons, his daughters and his granddaughters all his descendants—he took with him to Egypt. Israel had sent Judah ahead to Joseph, so that he might meet him in Goshen. On his arrival in the region of Goshen, Joseph hitched the horses to his chariot and rode to meet his father Israel in Goshen. As soon as Joseph saw him, he flung himself on his neck and wept a long time in his arms. And Israel said to Joseph, “At last I can die, now that I have seen for myself that Joseph is still alive.”
Responsorial Psalm: Ps 37:3-4, 18-19, 27-28, 39-40
R. (39a) The salvation of the just comes from the Lord.
Trust in the LORD and do good,
that you may dwell in the land and be fed in security.
Take delight in the LORD,
and he will grant you your heart’s requests. R.
The LORD watches over the lives of the wholehearted;
their inheritance lasts forever.
They are not put to shame in an evil time;
in days of famine they have plenty. R.
Turn from evil and do good,
that you may abide forever;
For the LORD loves what is right,
and forsakes not his faithful ones. R.
The salvation of the just is from the LORD;
he is their refuge in time of distress.
And the LORD helps them and delivers them;
he delivers them from the wicked and saves them,
because they take refuge in him. R.
Alleluia: John 16:13a, 14:26d
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
When the Spirit of truth comes,
he will guide you to all truth
and remind you of all I told you.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel: Matthew 10:16-23
Jesus said to his Apostles: “Behold, I am sending you like sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and simple as doves. But 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. When they persecute you in one town, flee to another. Amen, I say to you, you will not finish the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.”
One of life’s greatest tragedies is a parent’s loss of a child. It seems so unnatural. In fact, I tell people that when my mum, Rebecca, died was not when she was indeed interred early 1997. She ‘died’ when my 3rd senior brother was gone in 1983. My mum loved him despite his being so stubborn and pugnacious, though, very industrious. Because, parents follow the unborn child through gestation, with the accompanying joy at the birth. They follow with love the processes of growth and development. It is, thus, a crushing blow when the child is there no more. And some Nigerian cultures prohibit parents from seeing the corpse of their children.
The Joseph story is fall of family pathos. The aging Israel (Jacob) today is about to be reunited with his son Joseph, after many years of belief that the son was dead. The story has been brought to a happy ending. That’s why our people pray “for being lost, instead of death” (kama m ga-anwu anwu, ka m fuo efuo – for the one lost has the chance/probability of being found). Joseph’s brothers have shown remorse; food has been provided for the family in Egypt. Jacob can only exclaim that now his life may be brought to an end, bringing him peace and tranquility.
Jesus assures his disciples today that life will take unusual turns for them, as well. They will have to defend their beliefs before civil magistrates. Families will be sharply divided over the acceptance and rejection of their message. But as they carry out their mandate, they are assured that their commitment will be vindicated.
Turmoil is always difficult. Family discord is particularly painful. Conflict resolution has more than psychological value. It fulfills a gospel mandate to be at peace with our family members. Joseph waited years for reconciliation. We may not have that much time.
People speaking in the name of God should not worry what to say; for Jesus assures us that the Holy Spirit is speaking through them. May God bless you with his Word, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen!