GOSPEL, FIRST READING & PSALM TRANSCRIPT (Subscribe or Login for Full Transcript):
So the reading for today is from Matthew 10:26-33, and it says this:
So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the dark, utter in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim upon the housetops. And 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?And not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father’s will. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. So every one who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven; but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.
What are we to make of these words? They are very interesting, they are very challenging words of Jesus. A few things, first, obviously, the disciples are afraid. Jesus, up to this point, has been traveling around with them. He's been the one preaching and teaching, and now he's going to send them out two by two to preach and teach the kingdom on their own, and obviously they are worried, they are afraid, they have trepidation about going out on that first mission. So one of Jesus's exhortations to them is “don't be afraid.” So that is the first point. The second point is notice the emphasis on the fact that they are not just afraid of going on mission, but they are particularly afraid of martyrdom. So why does Jesus say that they shouldn't fear death? Isn’t that a normal, rational thing to be afraid, not just of death, but of being killed for the sake of the Gospel? What does that mean and why is he saying that? A third question here we want to ask is when Jesus says “fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell,” what is he talking about?
First and foremost, Jesus’ exhortation here “have no fear” is in itself challenging. As you know if you have lived in this world for even a few years, you will recognize really quickly that it is a dangerous place. Life is very fragile, it could be brought to an end very quickly. There are untold number of evils in the world, dangers in the world, and so it is easy and it's natural for a human being to be afraid. Why does he tell them to “have no fear”? Well if you put the verse in context, you can’t see this in the lectionary, but right before this in Matthew's Gospel, in Matthew 10:24-25, the context was Jesus telling the disciples that a slave is not greater than his master, and so that if people said that he was possessed by Be-elʹzebul, they are not going to say good things about the disciples as well.
In other words, the disciples can expect to be persecuted, they can expect to be maligned, and they can expect to be slandered just like Jesus was slandered. But what he is saying to them is “look, nothing that's covered will not be revealed, nothing hidden now will not become known.” In other words, the truth will come out is what he is saying to them. So the truth about who Christ is is eventually going to be made known, and although he's operating in secret now, for example think about how he always told people “don't say anything” if they say he's the son of God, eventually it's going to come out. So they don't need to be afraid, in fact they're going to proclaim that truth from the housetops.Now when they do that they're going to begin to encounter persecution just like Jesus, and so secondly he says “I don't want you to be afraid of those who can kill the body but can't kill the soul.” So what is he getting at there? The Greek words here are sōma, which is basically the word for our body, and then psychē — we get the word psychology from that — which refers to the soul. It is the spiritual principle, the unifying and animating principle of the body that holds it together, the spiritual principle of the body. And so what he is saying is “don't be afraid of those who can kill your flesh, who can kill your mortal body, because they can't make you lose your soul. Instead you have to fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell”, or as the Greek literally says, in Gehenna, which is the place of the damned.
So what Jesus is trying to get the disciples to do here is to have a rational, rather than an irrational, fear. Although most of us think it's rational to be afraid of death, and there's a sense in which it is, death is painful, it means an end to our natural life. What Jesus is saying is it is irrational to be more afraid of physical death, which is temporary and finite — however horrible it is, it only lasts for a time — than to be afraid of spiritual death, because spiritual death — being separated from God forever in Gehenna, the ancient Jewish name for hell, the realm of the dead — is something that's not finite, it's going to last forever, it's never going to end. So what he is telling the disciples is “as you go out to preach the Gospel, there's
simply no reason to be afraid, even if your life is in danger, because by preaching the Gospel you will save your soul, and the life of your soul will last forever, whereas the life of your body in this world is only for a time and for a season. So he's trying to turn the disciples way of looking at their lives, looking at reality, upside down and get them to see it the way God sees it, to see from God's perspective, to see it from an eternal perspective, to understand that although they live in this world, they were made for everlasting life, they were made for eternity.
Now some people might say “Wait! What is he talking about here when he says “fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell?” There's a debate about this. Some people will say that what he's saying is be afraid of Satan, because he can send you to hell through temptation and through fear and through committing sin. And that's a possible interpretation, some people say that because it is true that the devil, as 1 Peter says, he strives to cause people to stumble, he seeks the destruction of the righteous, the ruination of souls, he seeks their damnation. So what is he saying here? He is saying don't be afraid of humans, who can only kill your body, be afraid of God, who can cast your body and your soul into the fires of Gehenna where you will be separated from him forever, where you will experience a kind of spiritual destruction or spiritual death, which is hell itself. So if you look there, you can go back to the Old Testament in Isaiah 8:12-13 for example, is a good parallel with this. In Isaiah 8 it says “the LORD of hosts, him you shall regard as holy; let him be your fear, and let him be your dread.” In other words, not that you should be afraid of God to where you can’t have a relationship with him or you think he is a tyrant, what Isaiah is talking about here is a rational awe, a rational fear of offending God, a fear of sinning against the righteous and holy God, such that you would be separated from him, that you would break the covenant with him, that you would break your relationship with him. That's the fear of the Lord that the Old Testament says is actually the beginning of wisdom. The book of Proverbs says that multiple times and one of the Psalms says that as well, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.
Sometimes it puts people off, they think that means they have to “be afraid of God” in the way they might be afraid of someone who wants to harm them. That is not what the Bible means. The fear here is the fear that grows out of love. In other words, the fear of offending God because he is so good, because he is so holy, because he's a loving father, and also because sinning against him means being separated from him forever in hell. That is what Jesus is getting at here, he is trying to teach the disciples to give up their earthly fear and to have a supernatural fear of sin. So if you had to choose between sinning against God and losing your soul forever or dying and gaining your life, the choice should be obvious. The choice to die for the sake of living forever makes much more sense than to choose to not die for the sake of purely natural life that is only going to last for a time anyway, which might be accompanied by eternal death through separation from God in the fires of Gehenna. That is what Jesus is getting at here.
SECOND READING TRANSCRIPT (Subscribe or Login for Full Transcript):
...the sin of Adam and its relationship to the redemption won in Christ and the doctrine of original sin, in particular.
So if you’ve ever wondered about original sin and the Church’s teaching on that, Romans 5:12-15 is a crucial passage. So let’s read that together, and then we’ll try to unpack it a little. Paul says this:
Therefore as sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned— sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sins were not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.
But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many.
Alright, so let’s stop there. The first thing we want to highlight here is Paul’s terminology of sin. So whenever Paul uses the word “sin,” in Greek the term is hamartia
. And I’ve mentioned elsewhere that this term means to miss the mark...to miss the target so to speak. And it’s a common way of describing some kind of failure to love God or failure to love our neighbor rightly, which usually manifests itself as a transgression or a violation or breaking one of the commandments of God. You can think here of the Ten Commandments, for example. So if a person commits idolatry, if a person blasphemes, a person commits murder, that’s a hamartia
. That’s a sin, because they failed to love God or failed to love their neighbor by breaking one of the commandments of God.
So in this case, Paul takes that term hamartia
, and he describes it and he almost personifies it, that hamartia
comes into the world, sin comes into the world through one man...and then death through sin. So the Greek word here for “death,” thanatos
, just means death. It’s the same thing as the English word. However, it can be utilized to refer to both spiritual death—in a sense, like the death of a soul which is being separated from God—or physical death, which is the separation of the soul and the body. So death always involves separation. It’s one of the reasons we don’t like it. And it can either be of the physical or the spiritual kind.
Now when Paul talks about death and sin coming into the world through one man, the one man he has in mind here is of course, the one man who stands at the beginning of the Bible—namely, Adam, the first man in the Bible. And if you read through Genesis 2 and 3 carefully, one of the things you’ll notice is that the whole story revolves around sin and death. It revolves around a violation of God’s first commandment—which is “don’t eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil”—and then the death that results from that. So if you go back to Genesis, God says to Adam:
“You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.”
And then the Hebrew word there is actually like a doubling of the word for death. You should die the death, is what it says. Now if you fast forward to chapter 3, when Adam eats of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil and breaks the commandment of God, he does not physically die immediately. But he does spiritually die through sin. So he’s separated from God, he’s cast out of the garden of Eden, and then eventually that spiritual separation that takes place through the violation of the commandment...that spiritual death is going to manifest itself in physical death. So, as God says to him:
“...you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
And in Genesis 3:22, it actually says that after that happens, God drives Adam and Eve out of the garden of Eden:
...lest he put forth his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever”...
So He drives them out. So in Genesis 2 and 3, God creates Adam and Eve to live in a state of immortality, to live in a state of grace and to partake of the tree of life, which if they would eat, they would live forever. He never forbids them from partaking of that tree. In fact, He says, “You can eat of any tree in the garden,” which would include the tree of life, “except for the tree of knowledge of good and evil.” But once they eat of that tree and enter into a state of sin, they are now separated from God’s grace, separated from God’s presence, which is symbolized by them being driven out of the place of communion with God—which is the garden of Eden.
So Paul’s kind of assuming you know all of this. He’s summarizing this account of the entry of sin and death into the world, in the book of Genesis, with this very first line:
...as sin came into the world through one man [Adam] and death through sin, and so death spread to all men...
...because of that one man’s sin. So, it’s a very important point, because notice the sequence here. It is sin that comes first and death that comes after. So Paul is presupposing here that—as Genesis says—God makes man good. He doesn’t make them in a state of sin. And He also makes them and fills them with life. He makes them to live. He creates them not just to live for a short time but to be immortal, to live forever. But what happens is, because of sin—which the man chooses to do when he abuses his freedom—death now comes into human history. Death enters into human life, and he loses the grace of immortality with which he was created. And then it, of course, spreads to all other men. And then Paul goes on to say:
...sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses…
So here, Paul is kind of depicting death almost as a kind of king, reigning over the world, through Adam and up to the time of Moses.
...even over those whose sins were not like the transgression of Adam…
Now what’s he mean there? It’s very important. What he’s saying here is, even those who didn’t choose to violate the commandment of God—who didn’t transgress in the way that Adam did—still bear the consequences of Adam’s transgression because they are subject to the dominion of death. And the clearest example of this is the fact that to this day, the unborn and those who are infants and even children, die. It’s not through their own fault. They didn’t transgress. A child in the womb doesn’t even have the ability to transgress. And even a little baby before the age of reason doesn’t have the ability to transgress, to deliberately and with full knowledge break one of the commandments of God. Adam is the one who transgresses, but death reigns over all of his descendants, even those who did not commit a transgression:
...even over those whose sins were not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.
So what Paul is getting at here is...this is a Pauline biblical way of describing the Church’s later doctrine of original sin—namely, that everyone who was born into this world, all human beings are born in a state of spiritual death. They are born deprived of the grace of original holiness with which Adam and Eve in Genesis 2 and 3 were created by God to live forever. So they’re all born subject to death, even those who have not, through any fault of their own, committed sin.
And that’s why the Catechism of the Catholich Church
makes it very...it stresses the point that original sin is analogous to human sin, but it’s not the same as an actual sin, because it’s a state and not an act.
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