Gospel: Matthew 10:26-33

Fear and Worry

What causes people worry about their security and their future?

Worry, anxiety, fear. Americans seem to invite anxiety even in the best of times. Some people not only worry, they wallow in it. Fear becomes a lifestyle that demands some sort of therapy, some sort of drug, some sort of insurance. An atmosphere of extreme concern causes some to live indoors and in the shadows.

What can help people break out of fear, anxiety, and worry? A trust in something greater than themselves. When people lose themselves to fear, they realize they are not in control. They live in sheer chaos. When they realize that God is truly in control, and that all they need to do is to trust God, they can live without anxiety. They can live openly, in peace.

In Matthew's gospel, Jesus spoke to his front line, his Apostles, on fear and the need for faith.

Popular Translation

Jesus told the followers he sent out to serve the people:

26 Don't be afraid of others! For everything you try to cover up will be uncovered. And all your secrets will be known. 27 What I told you in the dark, tell everyone in the light. What you heard me whisper in your ear, shout to everyone from the top of your house. 28 Don't be afraid of people who kill you. They kill your body, not your spirit. But be more afraid of God, the one who can destroy your body and spirit in hell.

29 Can't you buy two sparrows for a penny? Yet, one of them will not fall to the ground unless your Father wishes it. 30 But, all the hairs on your heads been counted (by your Father). 31 So, don't be afraid. You're worth so much more than a lot of sparrows!

32 I will tell my Father in heaven about anyone who says to other people, "I belong to Jesus." But, in front of my Father in heaven, I will reject anyone who says to others, "I reject Jesus."

Jesus discussed three sources of fear for the Christian: worry about self-revelation, fear of persecution, anxiety over personal need. None of these fears outweigh the responsibility of the Christian to spread the Good News.

Literal Translation

26 So, you should not fear them. For nothing is (now) covered which will not be uncovered and (now) hidden which will be known. 27 What I say to you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear (secretly) in you ear, announce on the roof (tops).

26b was a proverb in the midst of commands. The proverb referred to daily existence in an extended family that lived in the same neighbor for generations. In such a tightly knit community, nothing could be covered up or kept a secret forever. Indeed, in the time of Jesus, adults trained children to freely walk into others' apartments and houses so they could spy, for no one locked their houses up during the day!

On the one hand, people distrust the stranger and those who dodge an issue. But, since people need privacy, they raised lies, deception, and counter-rumors to an art form. On the other hand, knowledge of others' business did have a social benefit. People can trust others who have nothing to hide.

Jesus instructed his Apostles to reveal all and to live a transparent life in order to gain the trust of people. Beyond the issue of trust, however, remained the issue of symbol. The Apostles proclaimed the ministry of the Messiah, the coming of the end times. At the final judgement, God would reveal all secrets and the saints would live in transparent glory. To convince an audience, the Apostles would need to present themselves as if they already lived such a transparent life in the Kingdom! [10:27]

How hard is it to live a transparent life, a life without secrets? What part of life is "nobody's business?"

28 Do not fear the (ones) killing the body, but not being able to kill the soul. Fear more the (One) being able to destroy the body and soul in Gehenna.

10:28 "soul" means the essence of the self. The verse can be translated: "Don't be afraid of those who can destroy your body. They cannot destroy the real 'you.'"

Such a transparent life would be honest, but it would leave the Apostles vulnerable. Living honestly cast an unfavorable shadow on those who have a secret to keep or something to hide. The dishonest could become jealous and soon rage against the honest. The dishonest would use guile, ill wit, rumor, and even persecution justify themselves against the honest. Yes, they could kill the body (both of the individual Apostles and the Christian community), but they could not kill the spirit.

Ultimately, the Christian should live as if the day of judgment had already arrived. They should live with everything uncovered before God, for God was the only thing that really mattered. Only he could condemn both body and soul.

Why do many Christians worry about what others think of them? How can you help them overcome such anxiety?

29 Are not two sparrows sold (for a small coin)? And one of them will not fall onto the ground without (the will of the) Father. 30 But even your hairs on (your) head, all have been counted. 31 So, do not be afraid. You have more worth than (a flock of) many sparrows.

10:29 "(for a small coin)" is literally "(for an) assarion." An assarion was a small copper coin worth one-sixteenth of a denarii, the coin of a day's wage. If someone earned $100 a day, an assarion would be worth $6.25.

"without (the will of the) Father" is literally "without the Father."

In the time of Jesus, "sparrow" was a common term used for many different types of small birds, not necessarily a particular species. Town merchants sold small birds in marketplaces as one of the few meat sources for the poor. The coin (an "assarion") used to pay for two birds was Roman in origin.

Jesus used the analogy of size to emphasize God's providence. Everything in the world depended upon God's will. The flight of a small bird. And even something smaller, the hair on one's head. If he directed such things of small worth, how much more will God care for his people!

Three times, Jesus tells his audience not to worry (10:26, 28, 31) Don't worry to be open about faith, don't worry about powerful opponents, don't worry about one's fate. All three lay in God's hands.

How can you lay your personal daily needs before the Lord? How will such a daily offering help you?

32 So, anyone who acknowledges me in the presence of men, I will also acknowledge him in the presence of my Father, the One in heaven. 33 But, whoever should deny me in the presence of men, I will also deny him in the presence of my Father, the One in heaven.

Faith could have a high cost: loss of privacy, persecution, and a loss of self-determination. But a single benefit outweighed the cost: an advocate before God. At the time of Jesus, when some prophets cried out for God's judgment and the end seemed immanent, people asked themselves "Where do I stand before God?" The Sadducees hid behind Temple cult. The Pharisees held to observance of the Law as justification. But, the Christian took comfort in the words "I belong to Jesus." Unlike worship ritual or religious duty, the Christian had a personal mediator, a go-between who could plead the case of the follower. Jesus would advocate for the faithful, but reject the apostate.

How can I freely share my Christian commitment with others?

Catechism Theme: Morality and the Passions (CCC 1763-1770)

"Passions" are emotions that drive us to action or inaction when a moral dilemma faces us. Some passions like love focus on the good in life, while others like fear and hatred help us avert evil.

Passions are morally neutral; their morality depend upon their use. When we use they for a good end, we make them virtuous. When we use them for a evil end, we make them immoral. A feeling of love or ecstatic in itself does not make us good. In the same way, feelings of hatred or inadequacy does not make us evil or deficient.

We need passions a such as the will to accomplish the moral good. But most of all, we need the movement of Spirit who empowers us toward the good.

Have you ever been challenged as a Christian? Have you ever felt God relieve you of worry or anxiety?