“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.” Words of Jesus Christ taken from today’s gospel passage.

Sometime ago, a priest read this passage at Mass. As soon as he closed the Book of the Gospels to begin his homily, a man from the congregation got up and yelled, “Father, what about those of us who have made the job easier for God, is he going to give us any special reward?” The priest paused for a moment and asked, “What have you made easier for God.” The man pointed to his head and said, “Father, you see, I have no hair on my head for God to count.”

Today’s gospel passage falls under what scholars call the “Mission Discourse” in the gospel according to Matthew. Last Sunday, the gospel passage gave us the names of the Twelve Apostles along with the mission and authority that Jesus gave to them. Today’s gospel passage continues with the preparation of the Twelve for the mission. Jesus is the master strategist. He knows the goal, he knows the way to get to the goal, he knows the obstacles along the way, and he knows how to overcome the obstacles. In preparing the Twelve for the mission, he knows the goal is the proclamation of the arrival of the Kingdom of Heaven. The Twelve are the instruments for the proclamation of this good news. In his instructions to the Twelve, he identifies one major obstacle in their way, fear. In this short passage, three times he tells them not to be afraid. To help them overcome their fears, he gives them three reasons to not be afraid.

First, they are not to be afraid because there is nothing hidden that will not be revealed. The truth is indestructible. Some people may want to fight it, some way want to conceal it, but its nature is such that it cannot be destroyed. It may be delayed, but it cannot be hidden forever. The message the Twelve are to proclaim is the truth. The quality of the message does not depend on their abilities, it only requires their availability, so they must not be afraid to carry the message.

Second, they are not to be afraid because the power of human beings is limited. If they must have any fear, it must be the fear of the One who can destroy both body and soul in Gehenna, and that one is God. Since they are the carriers of the word of God, there is no need to be afraid of God. Yes, they will meet oppositions from those who hate the truth, they will persecute them, but they must not give in, because they cannot bite as much as they can bark.

Third, they are not to be afraid because God is keeping watch over them. Jesus explains this with two images. He talks about how God knows every jumping and hopping of the sparrows, insignificant as they may seem to human beings. Sparrows are cheap and dispensable. He also used the image of the numbering of the hairs on the head of human beings. It does not mean that God goes around taking a roll call of the hairs on our heads. It is an expression for the detailed care of God. It is a symbol of intimate and infinite knowledge and care. To know is to care. You cannot really and truly know and not care. Because God really and truly knows his people, he cares for them and provides for them. My dearly beloved in Christ, every day we come to Mass, the priest or the deacon sends us out to go proclaim the good news like the Twelve. Fear is one obstacle we must guard against. Do not be afraid because the message is more than you. As long as it is the undiluted truth, the word of God, keep spreading it, God will take care of the growth. Do not be afraid of those who gang up against you because you stand for the truth. They will not last. Even if they seem to be powerful, they will not last. Do not be afraid because God knows you, God knows the truth, and God knows those who oppose you. Nothing is hidden from him. Even when he seems not to pay attention, do not be deceived, he cares. On the cross, it seemed as if he did not care for his Son, the Truth. Jesus even cried out, “My God, My God, why have you abandoned me?” At that point, it seemed falsehood was on the throne. It took only three days, and the Truth came out of the tomb victoriously. Stand always by the message, be always on the side of the truth no matter the opposition. Remember, as long as you are on the side of the truth, as long as you are on the side of God, in the end, all will be well, if it is not yet well, it means it is not yet the end.

Rev. Fr. Emmanuel Ochigbo

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