13th Sunday in Ordinary Time A – July 2, 2023

 

13th Sunday in Ordinary Time A – July 2, 2023

2 Kings 4: 8-11, 14-16a; Romans 6: 3-4, 8-11; Matthew 10: 37-42

 

Theme: Let Us Love Jesus Above All, Take up Our Crosses, and Practice Hospitality

Today we have come to the end of our meditation on chapter 10 of the Gospel of Mathew that we started on Sunday, June 18th. It is important to note that Matthew recorded five large sermons of Jesus in his Gospel. This is in reference to the first “five books” of the Bible called the “books of Moses” because he intends to present Jesus as a New Moses. These five sermons are - The Sermon on the Mount (chapters 5-7), - The Mission Sermon (chapter 10), - The Mystery Sermon (chapter 13), - The Mercy Sermon (chapter 18), and – The Mount of Olives Sermon (chapter 24-25).

Since Sunday, June 18th we have started reading the second sermon, “The Mission Sermon”, which talks about Jesus sending his disciples and each of us out on a mission to save souls. To better understand what Jesus teaches us today, let us first recall what we learned on the previous two Sundays. On Sunday, June 18th, we reflected on the first part of this Mission Sermon (vv. 1-15). It began with the narrator naming the names of the twelve disciples (vv. 1-4) and continued with Jesus explaining the urgency and importance of him sending them including you and me on a mission. (vv. 5-15). Last Sunday, we meditated on the second part (vv. 16-36). Here Jesus prepared his apostles and all of us for what we might face in our ministries. People may discourage us, mock us, reject us, and even persecute us because of the mission of Jesus. Jesus exhorted us to fear not and reassured us of divine protection. So, we should not give up ministering to our brothers and sisters because of the suffering that we might endure.

Today, we meditate on the third and last part of this “Mission Sermon” (vv. 37-42), which calls us to radical discipleship. After explaining to us the necessity of this mission and calling us to not abandon our mission regardless of all eventual trials that we may encounter, in this Sunday’s meditation, Jesus asks us to do three things in order to succeed in our mission. First, we must love him more than we love our fathers, mothers, sons, and daughters. Second, we must be willing to take up our crosses and follow him, even to death. And third, we are called to show hospitality to all those who minister to us.  

The first thing that we are called to do is to love him and his mission more than anything else. “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.” (Matthew 10: 37). Note that here Jesus does not ask us to hate our family to prove our love for him. Rather, he calls us to a higher level of love for him and his mission. Last Sunday we learned that we might face people who may discourage us, reject us, mock us, and even persecute us. Then, when we love Jesus, we will not abandon his mission regardless of all trials.

The second thing that our Lord calls us to do in order to succeed in our mission is to take up our crosses and follow after him. “… and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me.” (v. 38).  Crosses could be anything or any situation that we cannot change, such as natural disasters, or illnesses/sicknesses that some people may live with for the rest of their lives. Crosses could also be any challenging ministries that demand from us a lot of energy, faith, and courage, such as taking care of the elderly and disabled, and all the ministries in our Church. Accepting to take up our crosses means that we accept to lose our lives or sacrifice ourselves for the sake of Jesus and his mission. But giving up our ministries or refusing to take up our crosses due to the trials we face means that we care more for the protection of our physical lives than for the salvation of people’s souls.  Therefore, as Christians, we should choose to lose our lives here in this world and so find it in God’s kingdom. “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (V. 39).

The third thing that Jesus wants all believers to do for his mission is to receive his ordained and lay ministers, support their mission, and be charitable to them. (See vv. 40-42). Our first reading tells us a good story of a wealthy woman who was rewarded because of her hospitality to the prophet of God. Regularly, Elisha stops by this unnamed woman’ house on his way to Shunem (which is located approximately thirty miles northeast of Samaria). Every time that he stops by, this woman offers him dinner. This alludes to what Jesus says in our Gospel, “And whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink because he is a disciple, amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward.” (Matthew 10: 42). The woman of our first reading’s story did not only limit on offering dinner to Elisha. One day she did more than that. She and her husband prepare a room for the holy man of God to stay. This is what Jesus says in our Gospel, “Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.” (Matthew 10: 40). By receiving Elisha in her home, this woman received God himself. Likewise, whenever we treat well the ordained and lay ministers, especially those of our parish, we do it to Jesus. And when we do that, we receive gifts, as he says, “Whoever receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever receives a righteous man because he is righteous will receive a righteous man’s reward.” (Matthew 10: 41). Because of her hospitality to the man of God, this woman who was childless was blessed with a son. Note that at that time there were no retirement homes or social security policies. All parents relied on their sons to provide them with all these goods. So, a gift of a son for the woman of our first reading was an all-important desire. God knows what you and I really need. Let us practice hospitality with no strings attached and we will receive blessings that we do not expect.

To love Jesus more than we love our family members, to take up our crosses and follow after him, and to practice hospitality are what Saint Paul, in our second reading, calls in one word, “to live in newness of life”. It is important to know the full context of Paul’s teaching in this section in order to better understand our second reading passage. Note that Paul is addressing the possible objection to what he taught the Romans previously in chapter three. He taught them that we are saved by faith in Jesus Christ but not by “works of the law” (which means obedience to the ritual commands of the mosaic laws, like practicing circumcision) (see Romans 3: 20). The first objection of the Jews was that this Paul’s thesis rejects the Old Testament message. Saint Paul has already addressed this objection in Romans 4-5. He argued that his thesis does not reject what the Old Testament says. He demonstrated that salvation by faith in Christ actually can be seen in the Old Testament itself (see Romans 3-4).

The Jew’s second objection states that if we are saved by faith in Christ, does this mean that we can keep sinning? Paul’s response is “Of course not!”  We cannot keep sinning. (Romans 6: 1). In his argument, Paul uses three images: death, slavery, and marriage. Our second reading passage is part of Paul’s first argument. He says that we cannot live in sin any longer because in baptism we were buried with Jesus into death and now we share his resurrection (vv. 2-14).  In his second argument, Paul says that Christians cannot keep sinning because we are no longer slaves of sin but slaves of God (vv. 22-23). In the third argument, Paul argues that we cannot live in sin because we are no longer “married” to sin. Before we believed in Jesus, it was like we were married to our sinfulness, and it was difficult to get away from it. Note that in baptism we have died with Christ. Then, like death ends a marriage and allows the surviving spouse to remarry, so the death of our old lives in baptism frees us to marry our Bridegroom, Jesus Christ (see 7: 1-6). So, we, Christians, are called to live “in newness of life.”

To sum up, let us note that the whole section of chapter Ten of the Gospel of Matthew, the Mission Sermon, that we heard on these past three Sundays teaches us that Jesus continues to send all of us out on a mission, starting in our families, church community, neighborhood, and everywhere we live. Since this mission consists of saving the souls of the people, Jesus exhorts us not to be afraid of anything or those who try to stop us by rejecting us, mocking us, discouraging us, or persecuting us. To succeed in our mission, we need to love Jesus more than we love our family members; we need to take up our crosses and follow after him; and we need to practice hospitality to his ordained and lay ministers, especially those of our Church community. Amen.

Rev. Leon Ngandu, SVD

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