Maintaining Faith in the Midst of Powerlessness: How to Trust in God’s Infinite Love (Gospel Reflection)
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One of the best ways to enrich your experience at Sunday Mass is to pray the Mass Readings personally and to meditate on a Gospel reflection.
A great way of doing this is using the technique of Lectio Divina, a powerful method which we explain here. The following is the Sunday Gospel reading with a reflection that is especially aimed at youth.
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This week, Fr. Piccolo reflects on Matthew 10:26-33, the Gospel reading for the Twelfth Sunday of Ordinary Time.
We hope that it serves you in your personal prayer and that it serves as a resource that you can share with your apostolate.
Gospel of the Twelfth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Mt. 10: 26-33)
Jesus said to the Twelve: “Fear no one. Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret that will not be known. “What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light; what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna. Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge. Even all the hairs of your head are counted. So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. Everyone who acknowledges me before others I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father. But whoever denies me before others, I will deny before my heavenly Father.”
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The Gospel of the Lord
“Who will I speak with today?” ~ Perhaps unhappiness begins where one finds no answer to this question.” – Galimberti
How much is my life really worth? And who cares? These are the questions that trouble our hearts during times of disappointment, when we feel defeated and misunderstood. Life is an unavoidable battle and we have no choice but to pick a side. Thus, as much as he would have liked to bring peace, Jesus caused tensions and conflicts with his message. And yet it is also true that at the climax of the injustice against him, he refused to defend himself.
Jesus speaks to his disciples with clarity, foretelling of the conflicts they will run into. This passage from the Gospel of Matthew is a part of the message of Jesus to his disciples as he sends them out on their mission. They could be the words by which we are invited to live out each day. Every day we find ourselves confronted by conflicts and opposition, every day we are called to choose what side we want to be on.
It’s not by accident that Jesus links together a series of conflicts that is disciples will have to face. Some think of concealing themselves; they think that it is possible to keep what they truly think hidden in their hearts. These are those who hide in the darkness, deceiving themselves by thinking that their actions go unseen.
To these people, Jesus foretells of the light: there is nothing hidden that will not be revealed. The disciples of Jesus ought to live in such a way that they never fear the light. In the rules for discernment, Ignatius of Loyola translates these words of Jesus into some practical advice which was very useful in his time:
Thirteenth Rule: Likewise, the devil acts as a licentious suitor that wants to be secret and not revealed. For, as the licentious man who, speaking for an evil purpose, solicits a daughter of a good father or a wife of a good husband, wants his words and persuasions to be secret, and the contrary displeases him much, when the daughter reveals to her father or the wife to her husband his licentious words and depraved intention, because he easily gathers that he will not be able to succeed with the undertaking begun: in the same way, when the enemy of human nature brings his wiles and persuasions to the just soul, he wants and desires that they be received and kept in secret; but when one reveals them to his good Confessor or to another spiritual person that knows his deceits and evil ends, it is very grievous to him, because he gathers, from his manifest deceits being discovered, that he will not be able to succeed with his wickedness begun. [Spiritual Exercises, 326]
The disciple that confronts the conflicts of daily life can’t help getting injured or wrapped up in them, just like the traveler that must cross through a forest of brambles can’t help but get scratched. And yet there is something more profound that remains untouched. Though the body may show visible signs of battle, there is an inner core that belongs to God alone and remains pure. For this reason Jesus contrasts the exteriority body and the interiority of the soul.
This is how, as Ignatius continues, one can truly attain humility: not through our own efforts that lead to a false humility – for the desire of the will to be humble only increases our vanity – but by accepting humiliations, that is accepting not being recognized or rewarded when we deserve it:
I want and choose… humiliations with Christ humiliated rather than honors; and to desire to be rated as worthless and a fool for Christ, who first was held as such, rather than wise or prudent in this world. [Spiritual Exercises, 167]
And yet, despite the loving care of God, the sparrows falls to the ground and the disciple is killed. It is then that we ask ourselves what our life is worth and if God really cares. Perhaps it is not the reality of defeat or failure that determines the value of our life but how faithful we were to Christ, accepting our impotence. Even in our powerlessness and defeat, Jesus puts forward another opposition: one can acknowledge Christ or deny him, you can stay or you can go. Mary stood firm at the foot of the Cross despite her powerlessness.
Many times the only thing life asks of us is this: to stand firm despite our powerlessness because it is precisely in that moment that it is possible to recognize – not only with the head, but also with the heart – that the smallest sparrow is in the hands of God. Standing firm despite being powerless is certainly the greatest act of faith.
Questions for personal reflection:
- If the secrets of your heart were revealed publicly, would you have anything to fear?
- How do you react when you are unable to do good despite your efforts?