First Reading: 2Kings 4. 8 – 12a 14 – 16
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 89.
Second Reading: Romans 6. 3 -4, 8 – 11
Gospel: Matthew 10. 37 – 42
“Whoever receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward.”
When Jesus made that magnificent promise, he was offering a new twist on traditional Semitic
morality which taught that one must care for anyone who is vulnerable. The practice of offering a
stranger board and bed developed in a harsh desert climate, one in which everyone involved knew
what it was like to be lacking food or shelter. To welcome the stranger could mean saving that
person’s life — and vice versa. At the same time, although the Jewish people’s appreciation of
hospitality called them to care for any traveling stranger, their sacramental sense of praying the
table blessing meant that they would dine only with people who could share their devotion to the
God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. (That’s the reason for not eating with Gentiles or sinners.)
Stop for a moment and think again about the implications of what’s been said here. First, in Jesus’
culture, anyone who had home and food felt impelled to share not only because that is simply
what any respectable person does, but because it was often a question of life or death. Secondly,
sharing a table implies that the people gathered are in deep communion with one another. That’s
where the prophet’s reward comes in: sharing the table or taking a prophet into your home
functions as a sacrament of solidarity; it affects what it symbolizes. You and the prophet become
as deeply connected as relatives.
Today’s Liturgy of the Word begins with the wandering prophet Elisha meeting “a woman of
influence.” After giving him meals, the woman talked her husband into making a room for Elisha
in their empty-nest home. That led Elisha to repay her with one of the Bible’s favorite promises:
“You who were childless will soon have a son.” That promise went beyond anything that the
apparently unmarried Elisha had received.
The promise we began with comes from the second part of what we hear from Jesus today. The
Gospel opens with a statement to the apostles: “Whoever loves father or mother or children more
than me is not worthy of me.” Now, that sounds harsh. If we put the prophet’s reward together
with the demand to love Jesus and his representatives above all, we realize that Jesus is
establishing a new sort of family bond, one based on love and a common commitment rather than
The idea of kinship based on relationship to Jesus rather than family provides a way to understand
Paul’s teaching about being baptized into Christ Jesus. For Paul, baptism signifies death to one
way of life in order to live in “newness of life.” Paul sees baptism as the way a disciple becomes
identified with Christ Jesus — assuming the pattern of his life. It is the entryway into living for
Today’s three readings comment on one another. The story of Elisha reflects on the blessings of
receiving the stranger, especially when that stranger is a prophet. The Gospel reminds us that
receiving a prophet entails both rewards and danger: Those who identify with Christ will learn the
lesson of losing their lives — and receiving them back — as Jesus himself did. Paul’s message to
the Romans reminds us that baptism incorporates us in two ways: We become family even as we
enter into the rhythm of Christ’s death and resurrection.
What are we to take away from these readings? Paul challenges us to recognize that accepting
baptism frees us to share all that we are as Jesus did in giving his very body and blood for others.
Contemplating Jesus’ words about losing and saving our lives, we realize that he wants us to take
this message with utmost seriousness. What Jesus says here anticipates the parable of the sheep
and the goats Matthew 25: 31 – 46. It teaches that acts of Christian hospitality get turned inside
out: The guest in need becomes a source of blessing for the host, and the needy visitor becomes
prophetic by calling forth saving love. Host and guests are transformed into family.
Today, as we prepare to celebrate July 4, we might ask ourselves some of the following questions:
“Who are the prophets in our society? Who is calling us to a deeper living of the Gospel? Whose
need reminds us of the fragility of all life and our universal need for solidarity?” As in the days of
Elisha and Jesus, our responses are often a matter of life and death.