Jesus is more straightforward in today’s gospel than we might want to hear. He makes it strikingly clear that there is danger in this life, especially in following Jesus in his way of love, mercy, justice, and compassion. There is danger because many forces oppose God’s way because of fear, greed, and selfishness.
Just by saying these things, Jesus raises our anxiety and provokes our own worry. But he doesn’t leave us there. In fact, he says outright, “Do not fear” (Matt. 10:28). And beyond that, he tells us why we do not need to be afraid: “You are valuable to God.”
We might feel like cowards at times. Fear grips us. We find it difficult to act for the sake of the gospel when there is risk, be it physical, social, or financial. The word coward comes from the word for “tail,” like an animal putting its tail between its legs. We want to put our tail between our legs and hide.
Jesus summons us to something else: courage. The word courage comes from the word for “heart.” Sometimes we say to someone facing a difficult time, “Take heart!” Courage enables a person to act even though they are afraid. They act from their heart, their sense of who they really are. Jesus tells us who we really are: we are valuable to God, so our lives matter. We will not be forgotten or abandoned, especially when we face troubles. This is our heart, our courage.
Jesus also says, “It is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher” (Matt. 10:25). Jesus faced ridicule, rejection, suffering, and death for his commitment to God’s kingdom of love. We are not alone in our attempts to walk the way of love, mercy, justice, and compassion. Jesus, our teacher, walks this way with us. Take heart!