Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Readings: 2Kings 4:8 – 12, 14 -16.  Romans 6: 3 – 4, 8 -11.  Matthew 10: 37 – 42

Our first reading for this weekend is taken from the marvelous second book of Kings, and it deals with the prophet Elisha, who was the chosen successor of the prophet Elijah. The narrative is, on one level, very simple and charming, but it also presents a kind of icon of relationship between priests and faithful.

The word of God today offers us some basic principles with which we should build up our relationship in a healthy way even with the needy, the strangers and the enemies. First principle is to lead a God-oriented life.  In the first reading, we read that a widow received Prophet Elisha and offered hospitality.  He was a stranger to her, alien to her culture and race.  The main principle for her to relate to a stranger was God.  Elisha was a prophet of God.  She was convinced that he was a holy man of God.  Nothing else mattered to her.  For such God-consciousness she, who had no son and whose husband was getting on in years, was rewarded with a baby.

The wealthy and pious woman did something remarkable in offering hospitality to Prophet Elisha when he occasionally passed that way. A piece of floor space, a mat, some food and friendship she offered and later asked her husband to build a little hut for the prophet on the roof of the house. In Biblical times hospitality was considered an important virtue. This was especially true when extended to someone doing God’s work. The reverence was extended to the office and not necessarily to the person. The woman’s kindness in making special arrangements to the Prophet was in reality kindness to God. The prophet felt the need of rewarding her for her generosity she now receives a reward beyond all proportions. She was longing to have a son and in the name of God, the prophet promises the reward she wishes to have. This is because Yahweh the God of Elisha is certain to reward to those who are charitable to his servant

As a second principle Paul in his letter to the Romans points out to our Baptism.  In Baptism we have been buried with Christ and put on a new self.  All those who have been baptized in Christ died with Christ and are now living a new life.  Old nature of humanity bothers about oneself but the new creature in Christ bothers only about God.  So in this new life of Baptism the baptized Christians are called, to accept into their relationship anyone who has been created by God in his image and likeness.  Jesus using his paradoxical statements proposes the principle of discipleship to be the basis for our relationship.  According to Him all our relationships must be built up for his sake.  Jesus should be our priority.  All others are only secondary.         

In the Gospel of today we admire the total honesty of Jesus as he speaks to his disciples. He speaks paradoxically of being alive as involving such a degree of generous commitment to him as to be willing to let go of even those things we hold dearest in our life: our reputation, our physical well-being, and even our family ties if necessary. Sometimes one has to choose between one’s closest ties on this earth and loyalty to Jesus. Those who would try to compromise as a way of keeping peace soon discover that keeping peace is not the same as having peace. Expressing his honesty Jesus tells us that whoever does not take up his cross and follow after him is not worthy of him. 

We may ask the question what it means to be alive and what kind of life we obtain by carrying the cross. Jesus tells us that it is the only kind of life worth living. People who seek only themselves bring themselves to ruin. On the other hand those who bring themselves to nothing for the sake of Jesus and give themselves to others discover who they are. And that is what life is all about: discovering the truth of who we are. This is one of the highest values. Jesus is very clear that we cannot hoard life or we will lose what makes life valuable and make ourselves and others unhappy. Only when we spend life gloriously for God and for others we will find life here in this world and also in the world to come. To live as Jesus wants is to bring to life self-discovery, fruitfulness and spiritedness. Otherwise we merely exist and do not actually live.

Jesus explains the difficulties of discipleship, yet reveals that those who welcome the disciples have also welcomed him. Today’s Gospel also highlights for us the importance of hospitality in the Christian life. To welcome another in Jesus’ name is to extend hospitality to Jesus himself. Jesus will surely reward the person for this generous act. We have many opportunities in our daily life to reach out to others, to be a welcoming presence and a sign of God’s love. In the Christian era all those who cooperate even in a little way, will also be rewarded. The reward may not come to them in this life, but if not it will be all the greater; it will be in the next life. Indeed the apostles gave their life gladly for Christ. There are thousands of martyrs too in the early church and later on down the centuries who willingly gave their life for Christ because they were fully convinced of the eternal life waiting for them. The church has witnessed the persecutions of Christians and they have accepted suffering and death for his sake.

To be one with Jesus means to be a follower of Jesus or becoming his disciple. A disciple is one who knows the master well, has shared his life with him, who accepts his word and teachings and assists in spreading the doctrines with devotion. A Christian disciple is a person who accepts and assists in the spreading of the good news of Jesus Christ. Christian discipleship is the process by which disciples grow in the Lord Jesus Christ and are equipped by the Holy Spirit, who resides in our hearts, to overcome the pressures and trials of this present life and become more and more Christ like. This process requires believers to respond to the Holy Spirit’s prompting to examine their thoughts, words and actions and compare them with the Word of God. Jesus himself says that he is the one who listens to the word of God and keeps it. This requires that we be in the Word daily—studying it, praying over it, and obeying it. In addition, we should always be ready to give testimony of the reason for the hope that is within us (1 Peter 3:15) and to make disciples of others inviting them to walk in his way.

Today as we carry the message home, let us remember our Lord’s words to us: he who receives or gives hospitality and help to a prophet will have the reward of a prophet. He who helps those who are preaching and teaching the message of salvation, the good news of Christ, at home or abroad, will himself share the reward of these preachers and teachers. We remember the sayings of Jesus at the last judgment that whatever good or bad done to others is similar to that done to Jesus himself. So let us remember the promise of Jesus: even a cup of cold water will not go unrewarded; every little helping hand we give to bring our fellowmen to their eternal reward will help us to reach the same goal. Let us then keep this message in mind to reach out to others and discover the presence of Jesus in them.

God Bless you.  Have a wonderful Sunday