In Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus gives the Twelve lessons in discipleship, both its costs and its blessings.
Gospel (Read Mt 10:37-42)
In verses preceding today’s reading, Jesus perhaps startled His disciples with this warning: “Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace but a sword” (vs. 34). The battle He describes, however, isn’t a military one. Rather, “I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother…” The hostility that will often follow Jesus’ disciples will appear right in the bosom of their families. How painful this is to experience! How could something so inherently good—conversion to Jesus—cause such disruption in families, where our earliest and most intimate human relationships are formed? Today’s reading sheds some light on Jesus’ troubling prediction.
“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.” Now, we can see that the cause of friction in previously peaceful families is a profound change of allegiance. In the converted person, the call of Jesus is a call out of this world—not physically, of course, but a radical redirection of love and obedience. The values of this world need to be forsaken for the values of a kingdom not of this world. For the converted disciple, this can mean changes in language, in behavior, in routines of work, play, and worship. The disciple’s relatives may find this unsettling, even insulting. It is not hard to see why criticism and even arguments might arise. This should not surprise us.
Recall the word of Simeon to Mary when she and Joseph presented Jesus at the Temple: “Behold, this Child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against” (Lk 2:34). It is not that Jesus asks His disciples to create friction in their families. Their allegiance to Him and to His remarkably different kingdom may simply cause discomfort and even resistance for those who aren’t His followers. For some family members who have gotten deeply entangled in the ways of the world, the flesh, and the devil, the intrusion of light is unwelcome, for, as St. John tells us, “men loved darkness rather than light” (Jn 3:19).
Ultimately, Jesus tells His disciples that following Him means the willing loss of everything, just as a criminal carrying his cross to his execution by the Romans loses all, including his pride. It is good for us to remember this if we find ourselves being criticized, mocked, ridiculed, or resisted by family members because of our allegiance to Jesus. Our response is not to fight back but to willingly embrace our cross out of love for Him and for those who, like the ones who crucified Jesus, “do not know what they are doing.”
As difficult as this teaching is for Jesus’ disciples, the next verses in our reading show the glorious nature of the work they will do in His name. He bestows on them the highest gift—they will be as He was in this world: “Whoever receives you receives Me.” When the Twelve carry on His mission after His departure, every act of goodness toward them would be rewarded as an act of goodness to Jesus Himself. Yes, opposition to them, even in their families, might be ugly, but they are never to forget that they are really and truly His very own Mystical Body here and now. The disciples are to pray for forgiveness for those who oppose them, as Jesus did from the Cross. On the other hand, they are to rejoice with those who show even small, seemingly insignificant kindness to them, because—“amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward.”
Possible response: Lord, let me not forget that kindness to those doing Your work is kindness to You. Silence my sometimes critical spirit.
First Reading (Read 2 Kings 4:8-11, 14-16a)
Elisha was the disciple of the great prophet of the northern kingdom of Israel, Elijah. We learn today of “a woman of influence” who invited him to dinner. Because he often passed by her home, she suggested to her husband that they furnish a spot for him to stay the night. Elisha was touched by her generosity and kindness, so he asked her servant if he could be of help to her in any way. The servant told him about the woman’s barrenness, so Elisha called for her and promised, “This time next year you will be fondling a baby son.”
Here is an example of what Jesus taught His disciples in our Gospel reading. God rewarded the woman with what she most wanted in life and yet, apparently, had never mentioned to Elisha. The servant had to inform him about her infertility. This suggests the absolute lack of self-interest or expectation of any return on her hospitality. She wasn’t thinking of anything but offering kindness to the prophet. Her reward was very great!
Possible response: Lord, help me to be as self-forgetful as this woman in caring for Your servants.
Psalm (Read Ps 89:2-3, 16-19)
The psalmist is eager to declare what ought to be on our lips when reading the lectionary today: “Forever I will sing the goodness of the Lord.” He remembers all the kindnesses God had shown His people. They have known that “through [His] justice, they are exalted.” The psalmist declares “the promises of the Lord I will sing forever.” We should recall the promises Jesus makes in our Gospel that no kindness ever shown to those He has commissioned will ever be forgotten or left unrewarded. That should make us sing, too.
Possible response: The psalm is, itself, a response to our other readings. Read it again prayerfully to make it your own.
Second Reading (Read Rom 6:3-4, 8-11)
St. Paul gives us some insight into why, upon our conversion, our allegiance is radically altered: “We who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death.” So, St. Paul tells us, “… you, too, must think of yourselves as dead to sin and living for God in Christ Jesus.” This will most certainly make us seem like misfits in this world. Discipleship will do that to us. Are we ready for this?
Possible response: Lord Jesus, forgive me for the times when I have tried to find life in old sinful habits. No wonder that always leads to pain.