this week Twelfth Sunday of the Year Jeremiah 20: 10-13; Romans 5: 12-15; Luke 10: 26-33
4 ici f anyone declares himself for me in the presence of men, I will eclare myself for him in the presence of my Father in heaven. But the one who disowns me in the presence of men, I will disown in the presence of my Father in heaven." We live in an uncommitted age, an age which can neither express, nor be bound by, its own deepest beliefs. This leads to some strange contradictions. We exalt personal relationships as the highest good, and yet live
with an unprecedented breakdown in marriage. We proclaim the dignity of the individual, and yet give little dignity to the unborn child. Even as Christians, we are hesitant to state our beliefs clearly. Commitment of any kind is too easily labelled as "extremist". This, together with the fear of being isolated from the crowd, often reduces us to an uncomfortable silence.
The challenge that an indifferent society presents to our faith is nothing new. Jesus knew and understood his disciples. He knew that there would be times when they would find it difficult to translate their faith into a clearly voiced commitment He knew that for them, as for us, going along with the crowd would seem to be a tempting and not unreasonable proposition. His words make it quite plain that faith knows no such easy option: "Anyone who disowns me before men, I shall disown before my Father in heaven."
Jesus deliberately used provocative language to bring the point home. We, like Peter in the early hours of Good Friday, cannot imagine ourselves in a direct denial of Jesus. The lesser denials come all to easily, and pave the way to the greater denials which we consider to be beyond ourselves. These lesser denials are the currency of daily life. We find ourselves in countless situations which contradict the words and spirit of Jesus, and yet we are reluctant to voice our belief. For example, humorous remarks undermine the dignity of another person, and we say nothing. After all, its only a joke and you must have a sense of humour. For the sake of peace and quiet we tolerate so much, and yet within, we know that we should not be silent.
What are we afraid of ? Jesus addressed this head on. 'Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; fear him rather who can destroy both body and soul in hell." Once again the words are uncompromising, and are deliberately intended to challenge a vacillating faith. Few of us are likely to face death, or even physical suffering, for the sake of our belief. We might, however, lose face if we remain faithful to the values that Christ has entrusted to us. Is this such a terrible price to pay? Do we ever consider what we do to ourselves when we suppress our faith and go along with the prevailing climate? To live in such a world is to deny ourselves and the many commitments of our lives. The more we suppress what we believe, what we consider to be of value, the less value we have in our own eyes. It is then that the soul, the very core of our being, begins to die. When this happens, the only value that we have is that given to us by the passing moment. Our "little denials" are more costly than we imagine. Jesus understood this, and prepared his disciples for what lay ahead. When we speak out for our belief in Christ, the hidden self, entrusted to us by God, grows strong: "Do not be afraid. For everything now hidden will be made strong."