Friday of Week 28 of Ordinary Time – Gospel

Commentary on Luke 12:1-7

After his confrontation with the Pharisees and Scribes, Jesus now turns to the crowds. We are told that they were gathering round him in their thousands, so densely that they were trampling on each other. Clearly they were hungry to hear a man who had spoken in such an extraordinary and daring ways to their religious leaders.

But Jesus begins by speaking first to his own disciples. “Be on guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.” The fermenting characteristic of yeast is seen by the Jews as a corrupting agent. That was why they only use unleavened bread at the Passover.

The corrupting agent in the Pharisees was their hypocrisy. On the outside they pretended to be what they were not on the inside. “There is nothing…hidden that will not be made known.” It can mean that the hypocrisy of the Pharisees will ultimately be laid bare. In contrast to the hypocrisy of the Pharisees the followers of Jesus must practice transparency. And, although much of the teaching that the disciples receive is in private, ultimately all will have to come out into the open.

The Church is not a secret society, although it has its “mysteries”, its special teachings and rituals, which are only fully understood by those who are “inside”. The Church is of its very essence evangelical. Its purpose is to share the vision of Christ with the whole world. This is crucial to the setting up of the kingdom, the accepted reign of God in the world.

“What you have whispered in locked rooms will be proclaimed from the rooftops.” This, of course, will involve dangers. The Gospel will be resisted, it will be seen as a dangerous threat to other views of life. Christians will die and, in fact, thousands have sacrificed their lives simply because they were followers of Jesus.

But death is not the worst enemy – it is a fact of living. It is an end we will all have to face one day, sooner or later, one way or the other. The one we are really to fear is the one “who has the power to cast into Gehenna after he has killed”. Only God as the Supreme Judge has this power. Of course, the only person God “casts” into “hell” is one who has chosen to separate him- or herself definitively from God.

‘Gehenna’ (in Hebrew) ge-hinnom, ‘Valley of Hinnom’ or ge-ben-hinnom, ‘Valley of the Son of Hinnom’, was situated on the south-west of Jerusalem. In the time of the kings it had been the centre of a cult in which children were sacrificed (cf. 2 Kings 23:10; Jeremiah 7:31) and hence seen as a place of abomination. The Hebrew is transliterated into Greek as gaienna, which appears in the New Testament as geenna. The punishment of sinners by fire after death first appeared in Jewish apocalyptic literature, but the name geenna for this punishment first appears in the New Testament. The term is only used in Matthew, Mark, the Letter of James and here. The word is not to be confused with Hades, which was a general name for the place of the dead.

The one we are really to fear is the one who can make us deny Christ and all that Christ means, and to die in a state of denial. But, whatever threats hang over us, we are not to fear. We have the example of many before us who have gone to their deaths in peace and without hesitation. They knew they had no other choice: either death or Truth.

Even little birds sold in the market place for a few cents do not die unknown to God, says Jesus. The very hairs of our head are counted. So our duty is clear: to proclaim the good news of the Gospel with openness and integrity and not to fear the consequences. Because we are not alone.

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