Jesus said to the disciples, ‘They will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. This will give you an opportunity to testify. So make up your minds not to prepare your defence in advance; for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because of my name. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your souls.’
In yesterday’s reading we heard Jesus say: Beware that you are not led astray. Today Jesus says to those who stand firm in the faith: they will arrest you and persecute you … because of my name. Jesus also says: make up your minds not to prepare your defence in advance; for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict.
As the current liturgical year draws to a close we will recall the journey we have been on since the last Advent Sunday. From John the Baptist’s call to: Prepare the way of the Lord we have travelled with Jesus from the moment of his birth until his death, resurrection and ascension. We have seen Jesus’ signs and miracles, and we have heard his words of teaching and challenge. We are now being asked to affirm our commitment to living the life of true faith … no matter what obstacles we might encounter as we pass our days in this world.
We all like to think that we are in control of our own destinies. This fantasy has gathered greater traction as human intellect has developed in the two thousand years since Jesus’ earthly ministry. The truth of the matter can be found in the ancient words of Psalm 139: O Lord, you have searched me and known me … you discern my thoughts from far away … and are acquainted with all my ways … Even before a word is on my tongue, O Lord, you know it completely.The truth of God’s total knowledge and understanding of each and every one of us lies at the heart of Jesus’ words to us today.
Jesus calls us to let go of our self-obsessed need to be “in control”. Jesus reveals his understanding of the pitfalls and potential horrors of this life. Jesus calls us to demonstrate our faith and trust in him by letting go as we tumble into the maelstrom of human life, even to the point of trusting him to give us the words we need when the occasion demands.
Let us pray for the strength to be courageous in our faith. Let us pray that the words of the psalmist might be engraved upon our hearts and minds. Let us pray that the lessons of the last year might lead us into the days yet to come.