2 July 2017: Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary time

Reading 1 Response Reading 2 Gospel
2 Kgs 4:8-11, 14-16a Ps 89:2-3, 16-17, 18-19 Rom 6:3-4, 8-11 Mt 10:37-42

Discipleship: challenges and consolations

Green_banner_sm In Ordinary time the Lectionary invites RCIA participants and the believing community to hear and to reflect on Jesus’ teachings from his everyday ministry. This week’s readings invite us to reflect on discipleship’s demands and promises.

In the first reading from the second book of Kings, the prophet Elisha accepts the Shunammite woman’s hospitality. Jewish hearers understand Elisha’s need to reciprocate the woman’s hospitality, and see his action as serving God’s people. In today’s gospel, Jesus tells his disciples that “one who receives a prophet earns a prophet’s reward.” Those who show hospitality to Jesus’ disciples will earn a greater reward.

In the second reading to the ekklesia at Rome, Paul reflects on the “already” and “not yet” meanings of baptism. In baptism disciples already participate in the death and new life given by God at Jesus’ resurrection. In baptism disciples have a promise–a “not yet” share–of eternal life: That is, Jesus’ work (his obedience in life and death; his glorification) is complete, but a disciple’s work continues. A disciple’s resurrection requires “living to God in Christ:” continuing obedience to God’s will and rejecting sin (hamartia).

In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus concludes his instructions to his disciples about their mission. In today’s reading, Jesus tells his disciples how he will measure them, and how they will be rewarded.

Who is worthy? In Jesus’ time, family (and family loyalty) was the main impediment to discipleship. In a tribal culture, only family members could be trusted, and only the extended family could provide honor and status, as well as economic, religious, educational, and social connections needed to live. Jesus tells his first-century disciples they must place a relationship with him before their relationship with their families–a radical request.

In the twenty-first century, personal success at any cost is the main impediment to discipleship. In a culture that prizes individuals above community, an individual’s success defines worth and status. Jesus asks his twenty-first-century disciples to place their relationship with him before personal achievements–an equally radical request.

In all times, Jesus calls disciples to loyalty to his mission, to the cross’ death to self-interest, and to the daily work of losing one’s life by giving it away to others.

How are disciples rewarded? If the reward for hosting a prophet (see today’s first reading) or a righteous person is great, the reward for hospitality toward Jesus’ disciples is much greater. To receive a disciple is the same as receiving Jesus himself. In this life a disciple might expect hospitality (for example, a cold cup of water) as payment. The disciple’s full payment comes only in the eschatological feast in God’s kingdom. In the kingdom, disciples will receive Jesus’ own reward from the Father: eternal life.

As Jesus concludes his discipleship mission statement, he says clearly what he expects from those who would follow him: place Jesus and his message before everyone and everything else, put yourself and your concerns last, and spend your time and money on others first. This is what the believing community should look like. Do we measure up to Jesus’ requirements? Are we worthy to be called disciples?

—Terence Sherlock

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