Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
July 2, 2023 — Year A
Readings: 2 Kgs 4:8-11, 14-16a / Ps 89 / Rom 6:3-4, 8-11 / Mt 10:37-42
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
There was once a catechist who asked the students in her Confirmation class, “Which part of the liturgy or Mass is the most important?” She was not prepared for the answer she received from one of her students. The youth said, “The most important part of the Mass is the Dismissal Rite.” After the class laughter subsided, the catechist asked, “Why did you say that?” The youth said, “The purpose of the Eucharist is to nourish us with the Word of the Lord and the Body and Blood of the Lord, so that we may go forth and bear witness to the Lord and to bring the Kingdom of God into existence.” The student continued, “The Eucharist does not end with the Dismissal Rite. In a sense, it begins with it. We must go forth and proclaim to the world what the disciples of Emmaus did. We must proclaim that Jesus is raised from the dead. We must proclaim that Jesus lives on.”
In today’s gospel, Jesus gives His disciples an extended teaching on mission, or ministry. In the first part of the of the gospel, Jesus describes a missionary, or minister, who is worthy of the name “Christian.” He said, “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; and whoever does not take up his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me.” (Mt 10:37-38)
Why would Jesus say such a thing? Before we can answer this question, we must deal with a more fundamental one. Why do we love? What is it that motivates us to love another person?
It is good that we perceive the person. A man loves a woman because he finds something good in her: her compassion, her joy, her patience, her kindness. The fact is, however, that everything that is truly good comes from almighty God. As we are told at the end of Eucharistic Prayer III, “All good things have their source in the Lord, even those good things which come to us through other people.” So, yes, a man loves a woman because of her compassion, joy, patience, and kindness, but the only reason a woman is compassionate, joyful, patient and kind is because God has given her the grace to be that way. This is what Bishop Fulton Sheen was getting at when he said, “It’s only because we are loved by God that we are lovable.” God, who is love, places some of His love inside of us and that grace is what makes us attractive to others.
Consequently, it makes perfect sense for Jesus to tell us in today’s gospel that our love for Him must be primary. We are to love Him with all our heart, because if it were not for Him, there would be nothing lovable in us or in anyone else. In fact, if it were not for Jesus, we would not even exist. As Saint Paul reminds us in his letter to the Colossians, “In Christ Jesus everything in heaven and on earth was created, and in Him everything continues in being.” (Col 1:16)
It also means that a minister or a missionary must be willing to accept and carry the cross or sacrifice, for the sake of the Kingdom of God. In other words, a missionary or a minister of Christ must be someone who is in love with Christ in such a way that love of parents, children, spouses, and even oneself, assumes secondary importance. To take up one’s cross and follow Jesus is a sign of one’s death, since the way to the cross leads to Calvary and the crucifixion. The only worthy missionary or minister of Christ is the person who has found a reason to live and to die, and that reason is Jesus Christ Himself.
A case in point is the story of the young Spanish Jesuit by the name of Alfredo Perez Lobato, who was killed in December 1973 in Chad, Africa, at the height of the civil war. While he was helping refugees, a stray bullet hit him. The story of his short life is featured in the book, A Community in Blood, along with those of other Jesuits killed in different third world countries. When asked by superiors why he volunteered to join the mission in Chad, Alfredo replied, “Why do I want to go to this poor country? It is simple. Because it is difficult. I believe that I am called to the difficult and the demanding.”
It is natural for us to dream of a life of comfort, luxury, and pleasure. If we are honest about it, most of our prayers are directed towards alleviating our suffering. In short, we want a life free from trials and sacrifices. Perhaps this is the reason why we attach our lives to the pervading values of the modern world so life can be easy and convenient. In the book, Crossing on the Crossroad, it is said that the reason why people are frustrated is their failure to accept the crosses in their lives. The moment we try to escape suffering, we encounter suffering ten times more.
Thomas Merton said, “The truth that many people never understand until it is too late, is that the more you try to avoid suffering, the more you suffer, because the smaller and more insignificant things begin to torture you in proportion to your fear of being hurt.”
To conclude His teaching, Jesus encourages the people to be generous with His messengers. Let us take these words of Jesus to heart and act on them to the best of our ability. Remember, we do not need to give gold or silver. A cup of cold water is enough.
“Whoever receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man will receive a righteous man’s reward. And whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink because the little one is a disciple—amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward.” (Mt 10: 41-42)
Jesus has entrusted us with the ongoing work of the Kingdom. It is a work that does not allow any human attachment to frustrate the reign of God. The work of the Kingdom transforms our average hearts into hearts which will forever sing the goodness of the Lord.