By: Sébastien Lacroix
Today’s Gospel is taken from one of the 5 sermons corresponding to the teaching of Jesus in Matthew. The first one found in chapter 5 is well known to us, the Sermon on the Mount, beginning with the beatitudes: the Magna Carta, the roadmap of our Christian Life. The Beatitudes, Matthew chapter 5, verses 1 to 12 is also the passage my wife and I chose for our wedding, more on that later.
Todays’ reading is taken from Jesus’ second sermon, in chapter 10, on mission. The chapter begins with the calling of the twelve, “making them disciples”, to proclaim the Kingdom of God inaugurated by Jesus.
As he sends them off on their mission, Jesus provides some more advices to his disciples and wants to be reassuring. Just before today’s passage, we read that Jesus helps his disciples remember what their Master must suffer before them: “A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master; it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master.” (vv24-25) Talk about encouragement… What I suffer you will suffer… is this supposed to be comforting? Like the many signs we’ve seen in windows and online: we are all in this together. It’s going to be ok. Is this what Jesus is telling us?
The disciples are called. They are told their mission will be difficult, even painful. This brings me back to our wedding day. The Beatitudes. What is the eighth beatitude: “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.” (5:11) This is exactly what we are told again in chapter 10: “fear no one, speak to the truth that has been revealed to you and you will be saved.” In other words: “To whom much is given, much is expected from…” that sentence came down on us on our wedding day in our friend’s homily.
It is quite a paradox and we see this in today’s Gospel passage: Jesus twice more than once telling his disciples not to worry (to be concerned), and yet warning them that they will suffer like him.
The disciples are called to “speak in the light and proclaim on the rooftops” that Jesus is Lord of Heaven and Earth. To bring those words home to us, to guide us on our mission, we can look back at the promise made at our baptism: to be priest, prophet and king in the footsteps of our Lord. To sacrifice ourselves, to proclaim his love for all and to serve all without fear of the consequences of living that promise, of living as his disciples.
Jesus reassures the twelves and reassures us by saying that God knows us well. Knowing in the sense of loving: God loves us so much, that each of our hair is counted for; that we are worth more than all the sparrows that God knows and loves as well.
Some of you might recall the slogan of L’Oréal. L’Oréal is one of if not the largest cosmetic company in the world. That famous line: “Because You’re worth it” was created almost 50 years ago. In fact, the original slogan was: “Because I’m worth it.” It became not only a huge marketing success, but also a rallying cry for women’s self-esteem at a time when most ads offered a male-only perspective. The slogan remains in use and is still well known everywhere.
I am not entering the debate over the use of cosmetic. In today’s reading however Jésus is telling us that God the Father takes care of us, looks after us with a love greater than any parents for their children. God sees us beyond any cosmetic we can wear. There is no need to hide, no need to turn to distractions. God has got our back “because we are worth it.”
We have been homebound for just over 100 days. With all the hardships and the difficult moments we’ve had, Jesus reminds us where our hope should lie.
“Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven.” (5:12a) That is how the Beatitudes end. As we take on our mission as disciples of Jesus, we can already taste and see the joy of eternal life here and now, and even more so as we are able to gather again and celebrate the Eucharist as a community of faith. In his Word and in his Body, we find strength to do good, so that our lives may glorify the Father in Heaven.
Today is Father’s Day. Preliminary surveys and studies reveal that fathers rose to the occasion brought by this pandemic and confinement at home. The stress and constraints of being home together at all time, every day, has brought its load of challenges, but perhaps it also allowed fathers, mothers, to discover or rediscover the joy of raising children together, of fulfilling their mission as disciples in the little things of daily life confined at home. Such is my hope and prayer today that I share with you, inspired by the words of Pope Francis in his Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia – The Joy of Love:
Lord God, you set me in this family so that I can be close to my wife and share everything, joy and sorrow, hope and hardship. Help me to remain close to my children as they grow – when they play and when they work, when they are carefree like sparrows and when they are distressed, when they are talkative and when they are silent, when they are daring and when they are afraid, when they stray and when they get back on the right path. Help me to be like you, a father always present. Amen.
Sébastien Lacroix, MDiv.
La bible, traduction liturgique.
Pope Francis, Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia, #177