Year A: Thirteenth Sunday Ordinary Time
Matthew 10: 37-42
Jesus said to his apostles: “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. “Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me. Whoever receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man will receive a righteous man’s reward. And whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink because the little one is a disciple—amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward.”
- When do you feel most pulled between “time for God” and “time for family and other important relationships/responsibilities”? In what ways do you think Jesus would have you think of these as connected?
- When have you experienced loving another person as a “dying to self? ” In what ways have you found loving another person a discovery of your true self?
- In what way do you most consciously try to emulate Jesus?
- How does the reflection “A Prophet’s Reward” refocus your understanding of the phrase “God’s reward” so often used in scripture?
Margaret Nutting Ralph PHD
We continue to read Jesus’ instructions to his newly named apostles. A disciple must put his or her relationship with Jesus and the Father first; no other relationship, even one with our closest family members, can take priority over our relationship with Jesus.
On occasion people have misinterpreted Jesus’ words in today’s Gospel to mean that one can divest oneself of family responsibility in the name of discipleship. Jesus did not teach his followers to neglect their families. This very subject comes up a little later in Matthew’s Gospel. The Pharisees and scribes are accusing Jesus of breaking the “tradition of the elders” (Matt 15:2). Jesus asks them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? For God said. ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and ‘Whoever curses father or mother shall die.’ But you say, ‘Whoever says to father or mother. “Any support you might have had from me is dedicated to God, need not honor his father.” You have nullified the word of God for the sake of your tradition” (Matt 15:3-6).
Jesus is simply teaching that nothing can take precedence over fidelity to Jesus, not persecution, not succumbing to fear, and not family ties or family pressure. When one puts Jesus first, others will be loved too, in Jesus’ name.
Just as the disciples may not choose family over Jesus they may not choose self over Jesus. To deny oneself will involve suffering but will end, not in losing self, but in finding self: ” … and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” To find oneself one must be willing to take up the cross: “… and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me.
Jesus then goes on to describe the rewards that will belong to those who receive a person because that person is a disciple of Christ. As Matthew’s contemporaries (and we) hear Jesus’ description, they could well picture themselves as both receiving and offering such welcome. Again, Jesus expects hospitality to be extended to all, not just to those of distinction. Many might be more inclined to welcome a prophet or a righteous person who is greatly respected in the community than to welcome a poor or disenfranchised person. However, Jesus promises rewards to any who welcome the least little one simply by giving that person a cup of cold water. Such hospitality to disciples is tantamount to offering the same kindness to Jesus and even to God the Father: “Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.”
The disciples must put Jesus first because their mission is identical to the mission that Jesus has received from the Father. In putting Jesus first the disciples will not love others, including family members, less. In fact, they will love them more.
A Prophet’s Reward
Sr. Barbara Reid
When Jesus speaks of rewards for receiving a prophet or a righteous person, or for giving a cup of cold water to a disciple, he is not talking about what his followers get for the sacrifices they make. He is describing a kind of domino effect. Anyone who receives his disciples receives Jesus and receives the one who sent him. Both those who are sent on mission and those who receive them are drawn into the circle of divine love.
Those who receive a prophet likewise participate in the prophetic ministry and its rewards. The prophet’s reward is always twofold. Those who are being lifted up and empowered by the prophet’s denunciations of injustice cheer the prophet’s words and deeds. But those persons whose power, privilege, and status are threatened by the prophet’s articulation of God’s dream for righteousness will do all in their power to silence him or her. In some instances, as in the case of Jesus, and of the martyrs, this means that their physical life is taken. But, as Oscar Romero said the day before he died, “If they kill me, I will rise again in the Salvadoran people.” Part of the reward of the prophet is arriving at a selflessness in knowing that God’s word will be proclaimed by other prophets who will follow. Those who emulate Jesus know that the prophet’s reward is a transformation of self in the process of serving Christ’s little ones, which culminates in the ultimate transformation into God’s love for all eternity.
A Let’s Not Pretend
The cross is a lifelong challenge precisely because it is not about remaining passive. The cross is not about admitting defeat. The cross is not about opting out. The cross is about shaking things up. About rattling the system to its core. About confronting sin with the power of grace, love, and surrender. . . .
To take up a cross as Jesus did is to stand, always, in the center of the world’s pain. Taking up the cross means recognizing Christ crucified in every suffering soul and body we encounter, and pouring our energies into alleviating that pain, no matter what it costs us. It means accepting—against all the lies of our culture—that we will die, and following that courageous acceptance with the most important question any of us can ask: How shall I spend this one, brief, singular, God-breathed life? Shall I hoard it in fear, or give it away in hope? Shall I push suffering aside at all cost, and in doing so, push Jesus aside, too? Or shall I accompany the one I call “Savior” on the only road that leads to resurrection?
To be clear, there are versions of Christianity out there that deny the centrality of the cross to the life of faith. Versions that say: “You don’t have to do the hard thing. You don’t have to take this faith business so seriously. You don’t have to engage deeply or take any real risks. You don’t have to die.”
It’s true. We don’t. But let’s not pretend that spectator Christianity is what Jesus calls us to. Let’s not fool ourselves that standing on the sidelines will grant us immunity, safety, meaning, or joy. To believe in the saving power of the cross involves far more than intellectual assent. Yes, we believe, and we rejoice in the mystery of the salvation Jesus secured for us through his death. But the cross is not a historical artifact. The cross is a way forward. It is our only way forward.
Sr. Barbara Reid, adapted from Abiding Word
Barbara Reid, OP, is professor of New Testament and vice president and academic dean at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. The author of numerous books, she is general editor of the new Wisdom Commentary series (Liturgical Press). From Give Us This Day
Debie Thomas, Into the Mess and Other Jesus Stories. Debie Thomas is the Minister for Lifelong Formation at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Palo Alto, California. She is a writer, editor, and speaker on matters of faith. Learn more at her website, debiethomas.com. From Give Us This Day
Selections from Breaking Open the Lectionary: Lectionary Readings in Their Biblical Context for RCIA, Faith Sharing Groups, and Lectors—Cycle A, by Margaret Nutting Ralph, Copyright © 2007 by Margaret Nutting Ralph. Paulist Press, Inc., New York/Mahwah, NJ. Reprinted by permission of Paulist Press, Inc. www.paulistpress.com.