Secrecy was almost non-existent in the life of the average person of Jesus’ time and culture because of the ordinary living arrangements of these people. All the male children of the family lived in one part of the house of their father or eldest brother. Their wives and underage children lived in another section of the house. Smaller children were used by their parents to carry messages from one section of the house to another. Of course this was also a tactic that was employed by both the men and the women to “spy” on each other. The children would readily carry tales between the men and women. This effectively eliminated the prospect or possibility of keeping a secret from the other members of one’s family.
Secrecy or privacy was, therefore, always a cause for suspicion. If one conducted business in secret, the rest of the family or the community simply assumed that something underhanded was going on. Consequently, commerce and ordinary communication between different parties was usually a matter of the public forum.
If we read today’s Gospel reading with this kind of understanding of the culture and living situation, Jesus’ words have far more force. Jesus wishes to gather about him people who will readily identify with him. His disciples are called to proclaim the Gospel, announcing that the Kingdom God is near. He doesn’t want any secret disciples, those who privately acknowledge him but will not do so publically. The Gospels were written at a time when acknowledging a relationship with Jesus might have brought with it the danger of persecution. Nevertheless, Jesus’ disciples must acknowledge their faith even in the face of such fear. Hypocrisy about our vocation cannot be a part of who we are.
As Jesus suffered for us, we may be called upon to suffer for him. The Eucharist is the pledge of God’s love. We are God’s beloved in all situations.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Admininistrator