January 16: St Berard and his Companions (Mt 10:16-22)




            Jesus forewarns his apostles against the trials that await them and he exhorts them to “stand firm to the end” (Mt 10:22), so that they can be saved. His words have inspired martyrs since his own death and till the present day. In fact, our own times have produced more martyrs than ever before. No century in the history of the Church has been richer in martyrs than the Twentieth Century.


            Only heroes of faith, in the midst of hatred and in the face of death, can cope with the exhortations of Jesus: to be mild like sheep in the midst of rapacious wolves; to be strong in persecution, taking every opportunity, even the most unexpected, to confess Christ and to witness to him; to persevere in the face of ructions in the family, divisions brought about by the gospel itself.


            If we are numbered among them, our comfort will be the certainty that it is Jesus who has sent us; that God the Father will not leave us alone, but will give us his Spirit to enlighten and instruct us; that Jesus will come to us at the end to confirm our witness with the glory of the resurrection.


            The weakness of the Church contrasts with the strength of the world. It is the contrast that Jesus showed continually in his person. The Jews expect a powerful, triumphant king, and he presents himself defenceless and mild. He is so poor that he has nowhere to lay his head, yet he provides bread for thousands of people. Before Pilate, he proclaims himself king, but allows himself to be bound, flogged and led to death like a criminal.


            This is no easy programme for his Church, which is continually tempted to adopt the same attitudes as the world that are more efficacious apparently. And yet, thousands of men and women, and even children, have completed Christ’s programme.


            Whenever the Church puts on power, it distances itself from the Spirit of its Founder. It nullifies the gospel and dries up the spiritual sources of its proper action.


            The disciple of Christ is a witness - like the Master - to poverty, simplicity, and humility, together with courage and taking up a clear position in all circumstances. We are all called to be “as cunning as serpents and yet as harmless as doves” (Mt 10:16).


            Let us pray that we will be ready to denounce strongly any injustice. With St Berard and his Companions, let us be prepared to endure with patience any injury incurred by our living as Christians.