|Fountains on Cal State Long Beach campus|
"When people realize it is the living God you are presenting and not some idol that makes them feel good, they are going to turn on you, even people in your own family." Matthew 10:21Lest I get misled by our celebrations of Christmas, the scripture readings for December 26 remind me of the "cost of discipleship" as Dietrich Bonhoeffer termed it. The first reading is the story from the Acts of the Apostles of the stoning of St. Stephen, the first martyr. The gospel is from the second discourse of Jesus in Matthew where Jesus speaks of what it will be like to proclaim the good news that he is bringing. It will not go well for him and his disciples can expect no different reaction.
Once people figure out that the message is not really about the warm feelings engendered by our Christmas celebrations, they will withhold approval and perhaps even actively opposes those who repeat the call for repentance and conversion. Jesus admits in the preceding verses omitted from the gospel reading for today that he is sending out his followers like "sheep into a pack of wolves." He advises them to be as "wily as serpents" and as "naive as doves." But even this won't really make a difference in how they and their message will be received. The difference will be in them. It is essential that they remain faithful to the core message in the face of rejection, ridicule and even persecution. He tells them that this opposition will be especially vigorous from those who are close to them, from those who are expecting comforting news of salvation rather than a message that calls on them to change.
The "Spirit" of the Divine One will be working through them even if they are not all that aware of how they are to act and what they are to say. They only need to be faithful to the core message of the Good News: love the Divine One with all your heart, mind, and soul and love others--all others even your enemies--as yourself. Don't be concerned about being right, about being on top, about the high regard of other people; just live you life as though the age has ended, Christ has returned, and the Reign of the Divine One is here, now, and real.