RCL Year A Proper 7 Alternate Readings
Jeremiah 20:7-13, Psalm 69:8-20, Romans 6:1b-11, Saint Matthew 10:24-39

I still remember a short homily I heard at a weekday Eucharist back in the seventies. It was about the subject of sin, and I am sure it elaborated a different Gospel than the one we have today. But it tells a truth about today’s Gospel.

The preacher said that if we change our behavior in any respect we would draw a reaction from our nearest and dearest. Even if we give up a sin or sinful behavior, those around us who know us best would provide some resistance to the change. It is human nature to seek stability and to prevent change. After all, we like the way things are, the way we are used to.

Much evidence falls on the side of that preacher’s point of view. The reason I mention this unforgotten homily is the question posed by the Gospel and the First Lesson. What happens when we change our lives not in a little way but in a big way? What happens if like Jeremiah we begin to speak for God or if like the apostles we begin to do God’s work?

Jeremiah tells us that his close friends are waiting for him to stumble.[1] And Jesus tells his apostles that they will have to lose their life in order to gain it. They are to expect significant pushback.

And this discourse Jesus uses to prepare his apostles for mission. “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul,”[2] Jesus teaches his apostles. The distinction between the mortal body and the immortal soul is fundamental to Christianity, and it is fundamental to the mission of the apostles. It is fundamental to us as well, for our decisions, our choices throughout this life, are based upon it.

The mortal body is in a lot of hands and depends upon a lot of conditions. But the immortal soul depends upon God and God alone.

Whatever we do in this life, we are to be guided by this fact. Whether we are apostles or missionaries or teachers or caregivers or simply people in relationships with other people, we can risk our lives, but we stop short of risking our souls. Our stewardship is to keep our souls in God’s hands.

For Jesus came, died, and was resurrected for just that purpose—to keep our souls in God’s hands. The apostles need to remember that, and so do we.

[1] Jeremiah 20:10c.

[2] Saint Matthew 10:28.