A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master; it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household! So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. And even the hairs of your head are all counted. So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows. Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven. Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and one's foes will be members of one's own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. -Matthew 10:24-39
Jesus prepares his disciples for their mission in the world. They will face dangers, humiliations, possibly death. They observe, as an 8th century Christian prayer puts it, that “things which were cast down are being raised up, and things which had grown old are being made new...” But do not fear, says Jesus, do not be intimidated, be honest and faithful. Keep the last day in mind. You are loved. And by losing your life, you will find it. Advice to them, and advice to you and I along our apostolic way, along with thoughts from Henri Nouwen, Thomas Merton, Viktor Frankl, Cyprian of Carthage, Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav, and Oscar Romero.
In miscellany (below) find some prayers for the journey.
Go with God, Suzanne
Meditation One (introit) “am I afraid?”
Am I afraid to die? I am every time I let myself be seduced by the noisy voices in my world telling me that my ‘little life’ is all I have and advising me to cling to it with all my might. But when I let these voices move to the background of my life and listen to that small soft voice calling me the Beloved, I know that there is nothing to fear and that dying is the greatest act of love, the act that leads me into the eternal embrace of my God whose love is everlasting.
-Henri J. M. Nouwen 1932-1996 Life of the Beloved
Perhaps I am stronger than I think. Perhaps I am even afraid of my strength, and turn it against myself, thus making myself weak. Making myself secure. Making myself guilty. Perhaps I am most afraid of the strength of God in me. Perhaps I would rather be guilty and weak in myself than strong in God whom I cannot know.”
-Thomas Merton 1915-1968 Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander
Appearance on the Mountain in Galilee, Duccio, 1308-11
Prayers for the Journey
Guide me ever, great Redeemer, pilgrim through this barren land. I am weak, but you are mighty; hold me with your powerful hand. Bread of heaven, feed me now and evermore.
Open now the crystal fountain where the healing waters flow; let the fire and cloudy pillar lead me all my journey through. Strong deliverer, shield me with your mighty arm.
-William Williams Pantycelyn 1717-1791
O Lord Jesus Christ, Thou didst not come to the world to be served, but also surely not to be admired or in that sense to be worshipped. Thou wast the way and the truth – and it was followers only Thou didst demand. Arouse us therefore if we have dozed away into this delusion, save us from the error of wishing to admire Thee instead of being willing to follow Thee and to resemble Thee.
-Soren Kierkegaard 1813-1855
If it should please you to guide us... leave us with... the Holy Spirit of fidelity, steadfastness, and perseverance, so we can in sure trust continue our path, maintain its direction, remain true to the principles chosen back then when your light shone upon us and your joy made our heart glad. At those times when we feel deserted like that, grant us then especially your spirit of courageous attack, of firm prayer of defiance, of self-discipline, of penance. Grant us then the unshakable confidence that even during times of feeling deserted we are not deserted by your grace, that you are with us even more so when we cannot see you as the strength that wants to be victorious in our weakness.
-Karl Rahner 1904-1984 Prayer for Pentecost
Christ Takes Leave of the Disciples, Duccio, 1308-11
Meditation Two (insight) the other side of fear
But for every one of the liberated prisoners, the day comes when, looking back on his camp experiences, he can no longer understand how he endured it all. As the day of his liberation eventually came, when everything seemed to him like a beautiful dream, so also the day comes when all his camp experiences seem to him nothing but a nightmare. The crowning experience of all, for the homecoming man, is the wonderful feeling that, after all he has suffered, there is nothing he need fear any more- except his God.
-Viktor E. Frankl 1905-1997 Man's Search for Meaning
When we say, “Deliver us from evil,” there remains nothing further that ought to be asked. For once we have asked God's protection against evil, and have obtained it, then we stand secure and safe against everything that the Devil and the world would work against us. What fear is there in this life for the one whose guardian in this life is God?
-Cyprian of Carthage c.200-258
Meditation Three (integration) they will lose their lives
Those who, in the biblical phrase, would save their lives—that is, those who want to get along, who don’t want commitments, who don’t want to get into problems, who want to stay outside of a situation that demands the involvement of all of us—they will lose their lives. What a terrible thing to have lived quite comfortably, with no suffering, not getting involved in problems, quite tranquil, quite settled, with good connections politically, economically, socially—lacking nothing, having everything. To what good? They will lose their lives.
- Oscar Romero 1917-1980
The Last Word
This whole world is a very narrow bridge, and the main thing is not to fear at all.
-Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav 1772-1810
Jesus is about to send the disciples out on a mission. He has many things to say. As he tells his friends what they need to know, he grounds each group of thoughts with the admonition: “do not be afraid.”
When I hear “do not be afraid” I morph into an irrational, reactive, quivering glop of boneless flesh with oversized eyeballs. I have two kinds of fear: fear arising out of experience and fear of those things I can't yet imagine. In both instances it's useless to say to me “don't fear.” In the first case I'm rational enough to jolly well know enough to fear. In the other, I may not even know I am afraid because of all the chaos of projection and confusion as I dodge shards of panic bursting all around me.
Pema Chodron is my go-to gal on fear. When Things Fall Apart has helped me through many a pulling myself back together again. She says: recognize fear. Lean into fear. Work with fear. Appreciating fear is the foundation of sanity. Fear itself is the vanguard of wisdom, the vanguard of courage. She says, don't go into life just for good feelings, but acknowledge and touch what is uncomfortable and unpleasant. (Good advice for the departing disciple, since the mission itself implies hardship.) Place your fear in the cradle of loving-kindness, she says. And be kind to yourself first of all because without kindness toward your own self you're not going to be able to summon up mercy for other people. (What does bearing the Good News mean but to offer mercy and loving-kindness?)
But all this takes practice. So as the old Benedictine monks say, “lento, lento, lento,” slowly, slowly, slowly practice day by day. If I practice leaning into my fear, I can actually transform my fear toward loving-kindness. Sounds efficient.
So, do not fear, says Jesus. Okay, say I. Just give me a little more time to practice befriending my fear.
Each person has inside a basic decency and goodness. If he listens to it and acts on it, he is giving a great deal of what it is the world needs most. It is not complicated but it takes courage. It takes courage for a person to listen to his own goodness and act on it.