Weekly Bible Reflection
Matthew's Communities of Justice
Sundays after Trinity (1)
Matthew 10. 24-39 :
Called to be Dissidents
Begin by using the Bible Study method as outlined
Why is it that, in many parts of the world, Christians have been persecuted and have had to pay a high price for loyalty to Jesus? Why is it easier for us? Is it because we do not present a serious enough challenge to the social and political world about us?
Reflection on the text
Christians used to be called followers of ‘the Way’ (Acts 9.2), being part of a community which lived out the radical love, forgiveness, equality and justice which Matthew’s Jesus called the kingdom of heaven. The ‘Way of Jesus’ presented a fundamental challenge to the accepted values of society. His presence was a constant irritant and aroused fierce opposition from the Pharisees and those with vested interests in resisting change. In the end they had him killed. Oscar Romero, Archbishop of El Salvador, commented not long before he was shot dead in 1989, ‘they always get rid of those who get in the way’. Prophetic words indeed!
Although Jesus had sent his disciples out with a message of peace, it was not peace at the expense of justice. He exposed the power struggle between evil and the reign of God. He encourages us to engage in that same struggle and not to be afraid. To do so inevitably brings about division and conflict, and may cost us our lives - but not our souls (Greek: psyche - inner self or life).
The kingdom announced by Jesus was the start of a new humanity, where all are brothers and sisters and God is Father, regardless of natural kinship, social status, or ethnic origin. In a society where family ties were strong this inevitably aroused division. Loyalties would be divided. They had to choose.
some questions for group discussion:
- What struggles for peace and justice are you and/or your community of faith engaged in?
- Have you any personal experience of family division over loyalty to Christ?
- Have you or your community of faith experienced any kind of ‘persecution’ for your own faith? Do you know others who have and, if so, what have you learned from them?
- Do we avoid facing the political implications of the Gospel through fear of causing division within our church community? Identify the political issues that divide Christians. How might we overcome this problem?
- How, in and through your local church community, is the idea of a new humanity in Christ worked out with people of different social or ethnic backgrounds? What, if anything, needs to change to realize greater acceptance of difference and unity?
- Are we really prepared for the kind of society Jesus inaugurated and exemplified among his first disciples?
Start with the Lord’s Prayer:
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your Kingdom come – then pause …
- Pray for divided families, and individuals where loyalties are challenged
- Pray for those persecuted for their Christian faith today.
Light candles for communities and individuals suffering persecution for their Christian faith, giving thanks for the martyrs of the faith past and more recent.
Pray the remainder of the Lords Prayer.
Share the Peace with one another.
More background information
- Chapter 10 is one of Matthew’s five great discourses, often called the mission discourse. Jesus focuses attention on the conditions and challenges of continuing God’s mission.
- Four times the disciples are told not to fear – be it the Roman occupying power, the Jewish religious authorities, or divisions within the family. If there is anyone to fear then it is God. Remaining silent for fear of the consequences is not an option when a situation demands making a stand for justice and unmasking oppression.
- Jesus’ words about bringing a sword and not peace is not a call to violence. See http://www.crossmarks.com/brian/matt10x24.htm.