One day as Elisha was on his way to Shunem, a woman of rank who lived there pressed him to stay and eat there. After this he always broke his journey for a meal when he passed that way. She said to her husband, ‘Look, I am sure the man wno is constantly passing our way must be a holy man of God. Let us build him a small room on the roof, and put him a bed in it, and a table and chair and lamp; whenever he comes to us he can rest there.’ One day when he came, he retired to the upper room and lay down. He said to his servant Gehazi, ‘Call our Shunammitess. Tell her this: “Look, you have gone to all this trouble for us, what can we do for you? Is there anything you would like said for you to the king or to the commander of the army?”’ But she replied, ‘I live with my own people about me.’ ‘What can be done for her then?’ he asked. Gehazi answered, ‘Well, she has no son and her husband is old.’ Elisha said, ‘Call her.’ The servant called her and she stood at the door. This time next year,’ he said ‘you will hold a son in your arms.’
When we were baptised in Christ Jesus we were baptised in his death; in other words, when we were baptised we went into the tomb with him and joined him in death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the Father’s glory, we too might live a new life.
But we believe that having died with Christ we shall return to life with him: Christ, as we know, having been raised from the dead will never die again. Death has no power over him any more. When he died, he died, once for all, to sin, so his life now is life with God; and in that way, you too must consider yourselves to be dead to sin but alive for God in Christ Jesus.
Jesus instructed the Twelve as follows: ‘Anyone who prefers father or mother to me is not worthy of me. Anyone who prefers son or daughter to me is not worthy of me. Anyone who does not take his cross and follow in my footsteps is not worthy of me. Anyone who finds his life will lose it; anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it.
‘Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me; and those who welcome me welcome the one who sent me.
‘Anyone who welcomes a prophet will have a prophet’s reward; and anyone who welcomes a holy man will have a holy man’s reward.
‘If anyone gives so much as a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is a disciple, then I tell you solemnly, he will most certainly not lose his reward.’
Scripture readings – Courtesy of Universalis Publishing Ltd. – www.universalis.com
“It is in giving that we receive”
by Bridget O’Connell
There is a story told about two brothers who worked together on the family farm. One was married and had a large family. The other was single. At the day’s end, the brothers shared everything equally, produce and profit.
Then one day the single brother said to himself, “It’s not right that we should share equally the produce and the profit. I’m alone and my needs are simple.” So each night he took a sack of grain from his bin and crept across the field between their houses, dumping it into his brother’s bin.
Meanwhile, the married brother said to himself, “It’s not right that we should share the produce and the profit equally. After all, I’m married and I have my wife and my children to look after me in years to come. My brother has no one, and no one to take care of his future.” So each night, he took a sack of grain and dumped it into his single brother’s bin.
Both men were puzzled for years because their supply of grain never dwindled. Then one dark night the two brothers bumped into each other.
Slowly it dawned on them what was happening. They dropped their sacks and embraced one another.
When we live in openness to God’s Spirit within us, we discover that giving is receiving, and that sacredness is all around us. Our readings this Sunday invite us to reflect on the blessings of this openness.
In the Old Testament story from the book of Kings, we hear about the hospitality offered to Elisha. The reward is new life even in their old age for those who welcomed him.
St Paul in our second reading reminds us of our life with Christ in Baptism and of how in dying with Him we rise to new life.
The Gospel from Matthew tells us that in our journey of following Christ – when we lose our life we find it, when we welcome one another we welcome Christ and the Father, and by giving a cup of cold water we will be rewarded.
It is the little things in life that really are the big moments. In the words from Patrick Kavanagh’s poem “The Great Hunger”
For God is not all
In one place………. God is in the bits and pieces of Everyday –
A kiss here and a laugh again, and sometimes tears,
A pearl necklace round the neck of poverty.(The Great Hunger)
We pray that in our busy daily lives, we like the people in today’s psalm, may become “Those who walk O Lord in the light of your face, who find their joy every day in your name”.
by Fr Juan José Bartolomé SDB
Introduction to Lectio Divine
The demands of Jesus seem harsh, indeed almost impossible. Jesus is asking too much of his followers! Unfortunately, however, his words do not make much of an impression on us. We have heard them so many times that we take them for granted. We know them almost by heart but that does not excuse us from having to put them into practice. And then we complain that, apparently, Jesus does not count much on us, we feel a bit overlooked! We take for granted that what he asked of his closest disciples is not for us. And we continue to complain that he does not ask more of us. We do not feel that we are the ones he has sent into the world, with his mission and in his place, because we believe that the demands he made one day on the ones he sent into the world were not meant for us. If we refuse to follow him more closely, we will never feel that he is close to us. Those, past and present, who want Jesus to consider them his apostles and the friends who share his life and mission, must agree to be as Jesus wants them to be.
Read: understand what the text is saying, focussing on how it says it
The break with family that Jesus imposes on the twelve – he is talking to them after he has established the group and before sending them on their mission (10, 1-7.16) – is unprecedented in a world which was dominated by a strict patriarchal culture. It was so exaggerated that it became very difficult to follow his demands. We must not forget that immediately afterwards Jesus compared his personal mission to bringing a sword, not peace (10.34), that would bring about division and enmity in family life (10.35-36). It is not surprising, then, that those who are to represent him as his apostles should experience the same conflicts. This is an aspect of the personal mission of Jesus that is not to our liking and we often overlook it. The witnesses should not be afraid of their opponents, but this does not mean there will not be serious consequences in their family life.
There are two sets of warnings, one set referring to Jesus and the other concerning his apostles. They come from an earlier gospel source (Lk 12.51-53, and 14.26-27). It is very likely that the core message can be attributed to Jesus himself (10, 34.37.39). They reveal a very ancient Christian understanding of the radicalism of Jesus in planning the evangelizing mission, his own and that of his representatives. They follow a fixed formula. After an initial transition (10.37), there are three sayings. The first two are synonymous and in parallel, ending with the stern words “is not worthy of me” (10.37-38). In the third, the order is reversed: God will welcome those who welcome the people sent by Jesus (10, 39). The discourse ends with a promise not only to the disciples who are sent but also to those who receive them. From the size of the reward we can deduce the importance of the Gospel and those who proclaim it.
Meditate: apply what the text says to life
Preparing them for the mission, Jesus warns his disciples of the sacrifices demanded by their apostolic mission and he promises to reward those who welcome them because they are his messengers. The break with home is inevitable. The disciple of Jesus becomes worthy of him not for what he knows, nor for what he is willing to learn, but only if he loves Jesus in preference to everything else. The place that the father or son, mother or daughter, occupy in his heart must now be occupied by his master. However, this social and intimate uprooting is not absolute. The disciple can count on being welcomed by those who expect from him not human affection but the gospel of God. The home of the missionary is there where he is welcomed as an apostle, not where he enters as a brother or father. What is more, the apostle of Christ is a source of blessing for those who, without being family members, welcome him into their home as they accept the Gospel. But to be a blessing for others, he will have to choose to lose his life and take up the cross. He cannot bring the gospel of God to anyone, without personally paying a high price. Should we not think about this, before declaring that we are willing to follow Jesus and serve as his messengers?
The first thing that Jesus asks of his disciples is a genuine preferential love. Those who follow him and go to represent him, who live with him and will be sent in his place, must love him more, much more, than they love the people who love them. It’s easy to say, but is it possible to practise it?
The disciple must love Christ more than his parents, and – as if that were not hard enough – more than their children. Jesus did not deny one’s duty to honour one’s father or mother. It is a divine commandment. Jesus is not opposed to his disciples’ exercising parental authority and loving their children. It is a natural right and duty. He does not ask his disciples not to love their own family but he does ask that they love him more.
The apostle is distinguished from those who are not apostles by the great love he has for Jesus, preferring him to all others. The place that the father or son, mother or daughter, occupy in his heart and in his life, must be occupied by his Lord. Anyone who loves someone else – including the ones that we have to love – more than he loves Jesus is not worthy of him. Only those who love Jesus more than anyone else are considered worthy of him as a friend and companion. No one can say that Jesus is an easy and undemanding friend. But that is the price to be paid if we want to count for something in his life and if we want him to count on us to continue his work in the world.
In fact, if we have any doubt about that demand, Jesus adds an even greater one. Without taking up the cross, without giving up one’s life, without the risk of losing it for him, none of those who follow him can hope to be worthy of the Lord. While not excluding martyrdom if it should be necessary, Jesus here was not thinking so much of asking for the sacrifice of life or accepting a violent death at any given time. Rather, he is asking that that we accept everyday life wherever he puts us, that we find our happiness wherever he awaits us, that we do not place our hope except in him and that we find our salvation only in him. Seeking security apart from Jesus or looking for joy in other things, condemns us, inevitably, to losing him. The apostle who loses his Lord has lost himself. He no longer has the one who gives him his mission and the power to realize it.
Perhaps this is the real reason for the lack of apostolic fruitfulness of our Christian lives. Despite our best efforts and good will, our faith does not attract the attention of our contemporaries. Since we do not live with the radicalism that Jesus wants from his disciples, and since we do not live up to his expectations, our lives do not create any impact. Our way of loving does not surprise anyone, not even the ones we love most. Would they be puzzled, perhaps, if we led them to realize, through deeds rather than words, that we love them a lot, but not as much as we love Jesus Christ? Would they feel really loved if we loved them so much that they take second place in our hearts, if we loved them almost as much as we love our Lord?
Is it not true, perhaps, that many children today have lost faith in God, and in their parents, because their Christian parents have not convinced them that they loved God more than they loved their children? How else can we show what we say we believe, that God is to be loved above all things and to be preferred to any person if, indeed, in our everyday lives, he does not get first place and the best love in our hearts? If neither our children nor our parents realize that we love them just a little less than we love God, how would the people we just barely love realize it? The apostle of Jesus who ceases to be an apostle in his family, who hides his preferential love for God, is not worthy of Jesus and cannot be his representative in this world.
Without any doubt those who are willing to love God as he wants to be loved are taking a great risk. It is not always understood and it can sometimes shock people to know that the love of God precedes the love for one’s family. It would make people think more, and it would make our Christian life irrefutable evidence or, at the very least, raise an uncomfortable question for those who live with us. Jesus knows and promises his disciples the welcome of all those who share the same passion for God. The apostle of Jesus can count on the understanding and the hospitality of those who expect from him, not human affection, but only the Gospel of God. The missionary’s home is where he is welcomed as an apostle, not where he enters as a brother or father. The apostle of Christ is a cause of blessing for those who welcome him into their homes and embrace the Gospel. Only in this way when he goes in the name of Jesus and his Gospel will the Christian become a blessing to others, beginning with his family.
But to be a blessing for those who want it, the Christian will have to choose to lose their life and take up the cross. We cannot bring anyone the gospel of God without personally paying a high price. Should we not think more about this before declaring that we are willing to follow Jesus and serve him as his messengers? Would we not become more welcoming, more concerned for each other, if we were really interested in accepting the demands of Jesus? Is it not our fear of suffering and risk that holds us back from giving ourselves totally? And if around us there are no disciples who choose the Lord at any price, why do we not decide today to be one? We owe it to the world, and first and foremost to our nearest and dearest, to let them see that we love them so much that only God precedes them in our hearts. Only in this way can it be seen by the world and by our families that we are disciples of Christ.
since by the adoption of grace
you have made us children of light,
do not let false doctrine darken our minds,
but grant that your light may shine within us
and we may always live in the brightness of truth.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.