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Fear Those Who Kill the Soul
July 9th Readings Reflection: Saturday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Today’s Gospel contains a beautiful source of hope and strength in the midst of fear and challenges. In the preceding passages, Jesus was telling His disciples that they “shall be hated by all men for [M]y name’s sake” (Mt 10:22a DRB). However, He quickly follows this grim prophecy with the words in today’s Gospel: “And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.”
Every generation knows fear for their physical welfare, and ours is no exception; it is a natural human instinct, part of self-preservation. The Fifth Commandment itself calls us to take care of our bodies. However, Our Lord reminds us that this is not our ultimate end. We must fear dangers to our souls more than dangers to our bodies, never putting our souls in harm’s way in order to protect our bodies.
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Today is the optional memorial of St. Augustine Zhao Rong and his companions. These saints were 120 Catholics martyred for their Faith in China between 1648 and 1930. While this Gospel passage is not taken from the Mass in their honour, their lives provide a beautiful example of the lesson at the end of today’s Gospel.
Jesus said, “Everyone who acknowledges [M]e before others I will acknowledge before [M]y heavenly Father. But whoever denies [M]e before others, I will deny before my heavenly Father.”
What a wonderful promise to those who unashamedly hold fast to the Faith, and what a dire consequence for those who deny Christ and their Faith — be it out of fear or peer pressure or some other reason. It can seem easier to deny Christ, to say that we’re not Catholic, in order to escape ridicule, rejection, hardship, or persecution. All too often, we let fear take over and cloud our reasons, causing us to give into the enemy and deny Christ.
This is what Jesus warns about in today’s Gospel passage. We must be willing to suffer physical hardships for His sake whenever necessary, just as the martyrs did. To lose courage and deny Christ is at the cost of our souls. May today’s Gospel passage serve as a reminder of the devastating consequences of such actions and give us the courage and strength to hold fast to the Truth, trusting that no matter what physical harm befalls us, we shall be rewarded in Heaven if we remain faithful.