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 by the thousands, so densely packed that they were trampling on each other. Clearly they were hungry to hear a man who had spoken in such extraordinary and daring ways to their religious leaders.

But Jesus begins by speaking first to his own disciples.

Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees, that is, their 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:

Nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered and nothing secret that will not become 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.

Therefore whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered behind closed doors will be proclaimed from the housetops.

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 physical death is not the worst enemy – it is the consequence of living. It is an end we will all have to face one day, sooner or later, one way or the other. But, Paul says:

I will show you whom to fear: fear the one who, after killing, has authority to cast into hell.

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.

Hell (in Hebrew ge-hinnom meaning the ‘Valley of Hinnom’ or ge-ben-hinnom, ‘Valley of the Son of Hinnom’) refers to an area situated to the southwest of Jerusalem. In the time of the kings it had been the centre of a cult in which children were sacrificed (see 2 Kings 23:10 and Jeremiah 7:31), and hence was seen as a place of abomination. The Hebrew is transliterated into Greek as gaihenna, which appears in some translations of the New Testament as gehenna.

The punishment of sinners by fire after death first appeared in Jewish apocalyptic literature, but the name gehenna for this punishment only 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. Jesus says:

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten in God’s sight. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.

So our duty is clear: to proclaim the good news of the Gospel with openness and integrity and not to fear the consequences. We are not alone.

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