Saint Stephen Pongracz, Melchior Grodziecki – Readings

Commentary on Revelation 7:13-17; Ps 31; Matthew 10:16-22

The Gospel reading is from Matthew. It comes from one of the five discourses that Jesus gives in this gospel. This discourse consists of instructions given by Jesus to his disciples before he sends them out on their mission to preach the Kingdom and to do the same work that he himself was doing.
The passage reflects more a later period in the story of the apostolic church. In today’s passage, Jesus is warning his disciples on the reception they can expect when they go out to proclaim the Gospel. Although they will be preaching a message of love and healing and compassion and forgiveness, they will not always receive a welcome. In fact, says Jesus, he is sending them out like sheep in the midst of wolves. For that reason, they have to combine the “shrewdness of serpents” with the “simplicity of doves”.
They are not expected to suffer unnecessarily and should take the necessary precautions to avoid danger and violence, as Jesus himself did many times. At the same time, they are not to practise deceit or dissemblance. They are to be people of absolute integrity and honesty, making it perfectly clear what they stand for. Again, as Jesus himself did.
But they have to be ready to fall foul of people who will arrest them and do violence to them. They will be hauled before courts where they will give witness to Jesus and all he stands for. At the same time they are not to worry about what to say because, when the time comes, they will given the words they need. And this has been confirmed time and again.
What is saddest of all is that people will be betrayed and handed over by members of their own family. This was the experience of many converts to Christianity in the early Church but has been repeated down through the centuries to our own time, for example, in Mao’s China.
The passage obviously speaks of the experience of Stephen, Melchior and Mark who were sadly the victims of people who claimed to believe in the same Gospel of Christ. 

The First Reading is from the Book of Revelation or Apocalypse. This is a book written during a period of savage persecution when large numbers of Christians lost their lives. Much of the book is written in language which only initiates would be able to understand not unlike the books of Maccabees in the Hebrew Testament, also written in time of persecution.
Today’s passage speaks of the reward waiting those who have given their lives for their loyalty to Christ and the Gospel. As the martyrs stand before the throne of God and the Lamb, who is Jesus, an elder asks who are those wearing white robes and from where had they come.
Answering his own question, the elder says, “These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” Their sufferings are now over, “they will not hunger or thirst any more”.
Moreover, “the Lamb who is in the centre of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to springs of life-giving water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes”.
These are words for the three martyrs we remember today. More than likely, we will not be asked to go through anything like the barbaric sufferings they endured, but we hope that we will be faithful to our Master so that we may too experience the water of the life that never ends and enter a state where there will be no more tears or sorrow.

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