The Gospel Today
Memorial of St. Ignatius of Antioch, Bishop and Martyr
At that time:
So many people were crowding together
that they were trampling one another underfoot.
Jesus began to speak, first to his disciples,
“Beware of the leaven–that is, the hypocrisy–of the Pharisees.
“There is nothing concealed that will not be revealed,
nor secret that will not be known.
Therefore whatever you have said in the darkness
will be heard in the light,
and what you have whispered behind closed doors
will be proclaimed on the housetops.
I tell you, my friends,
do not be afraid of those who kill the body
but after that can do no more.
I shall show you whom to fear.
Be afraid of the one who after killing
has the power to cast into Gehenna;
yes, I tell you, be afraid of that one.
Are not five sparrows sold for two small coins?
Yet not one of them has escaped the notice of God.
Even the hairs of your head have all been counted.
Do not be afraid.
You are worth more than many sparrows.”
Reflection (Sem. Emmanuel Calumpong):
“Are You Afraid of the Dark?” This was the title of a popular television show during the 1990’s which really captured the fear of the audience watching it. However, I also believe that this is one of the questions that when we are asked of, we would probably be answering “yes”.
But why are we afraid of the dark or simply put, why are we afraid of something? Psychologists will tell us that being afraid is a natural reaction to an unfounded expectation of the unknown. We are afraid of the dark because we do not know what will we experience, see or encounter in it.
When I was about eight years old, my mother asked me one evening to buy a can of sardines for our dinner that night. Obedient as I am, I politely obliged. It was already around seven o’clock and so it was already very dark outside. There was still no electricity in our place at that time and I had to walk the road of about three hundred meters away from my home to reach the “sari-sari store” with only a flashlight in tow.
I reached my destination and bought the sardines. But when I started heading back home, the flashlight I brought malfunctioned. I presumed that the batteries were already drained. It was very dark all around and my heart started to beat faster. Fear started to set in and so I walked faster relying only on my memory of the path I had to track. Then I heard a growling of a dog that escalated my fear all the more which prompted me to start running. And the dog also came running after me. I knew that I was running the race of my life at that time because I had imagined the dog already so very close to me with its pangs ready to bite me. I did not even notice anymore that I already left my slippers somewhere along the way. I was intensely praying to God for help and was calling all the names of the saints I knew at that time.
Then I felt I was already exhausted and reached the point of surrender so I just stopped, closed my eyes, cried and waited for the dog to devour me. But suddenly I felt two arms lovingly embracing me. When I opened my eyes I saw my father doing all he could to protect me from the dog. It was only then that I felt secured and regained my composure.
Today’s gospel tells us that the disciples of Jesus will also face difficulty, opposition and division, conflict and betrayal, and even death. Jesus does not promise to save them from suffering and death. But He assures them of God’s unfailing care. Just as God cares even for the least and most insignificant creatures, like the sparrows that are so common and of very little value, so does God have all our interests at heart. If God cares for these little birds how much more will He care for Jesus’ disciples? Thus, no follower or disciple of Jesus needs to be afraid then, for he can truly say: “God cares for me”. And this care covers not just life on this earth, it extends to the life beyond, preserving us from being cast into Gehenna.
Thus, the gospel is clearly inviting us to really have faith in God amidst all the fears that beset us. For at the end of the day, God will never leave, abandon or forsake us. God will always be there to protect us just like how my father has protected me on that fateful night with the dog.