Lectio Divina - Sunday, July 2nd, 2017
Sunday, July 2nd, 2017
Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Reading from Matthew 10:37-42
2 Kings 4:8-11, 14-16a, Romans 6:3-4, 8-11
37 “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;38and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me.39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
40“Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.41 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.42And 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.”
We enter this week’s Gospel in the middle of a teaching. In Matthew 10:34-36 Jesus warns the disciples that he has not come to bring peace to the earth but rather to bring a sword. Jesus quotes the prophet Micah, reminding the disciples of Micah’s warning that a time of trial is coming. In Micah’s time the Assyrians were on the march. He warned the people to be watchful, ready for their appearance in the land—and especially to watch who you trust, because in the coming days of strife and war even the members of your own family cannot be trusted (Micah 7:6). One member will be set against another. Enemies will be revealed in your own household.
This is the context for our Gospel passage this week. Jesus demands a loyalty from his disciples that is normally reserved only for family. He announces that they must love him more than they currently love their father and mother. More than they love their son or daughter.
This concept of love is defined uniquely in the Bible. In our modern world, “love” primarily conveys heartfelt emotion. The love Jesus refers to here is expressed in the idea of the attachment family members have for one another. It conveys the meaning of being attached, staying connected with one another. So too the word “hate,” used biblically, means to be detached. In Luke’s version of our story (Luke 14:25-27), Jesus teaches that his disciples must hate their father and mother. Hate their son and daughter. He means that they will have to be radically committed to him and his vision if they are going to identify with Jesus and his public ministry.
The way of Jesus will require the disciple to take up a cross and follow him wherever he leads. In the Roman Empire, a victim condemned to crucifixion was required to carry the cross to the place of execution and was subjected to ridicule and shame along the way.
The “little ones” later in this passage are believers, followers of Jesus. In his time groups of women found ways to console victims being lead to a site of crucifixion. They might provide a cup of water to refresh a weary soul on the way to execution. Jesus imagines his followers as the recipients of these acts of charity.
What is a prophet’s reward? What is the reward of the righteous? What was Jesus referring to in these words? In Genesis 12:1-3 God tells Abraham to go to a new land and to found a new nation that will be a blessing to all people. God promises that a blessing will come upon anyone who blesses Abraham and that in this way all the families on earth will be blessed. A prophet’s reward is to see that promise realized.
Jesus is calling us to join a new family, a family of faith. When we are members of this family, God is our Father and Jesus our older brother. We will represent the family of God in the world so that whenever someone meets one of our family members they will know more about our common Father. We live differently in this family. In this family we don’t let the right hand know what the left hand is doing. We don’t perform our acts of charity for all men to see. We know that our Father, who sees what we do in secret, will send us our reward (Matthew 6:1-4). That is what Jesus meant by the reward of the righteous.
Jesus teaches that the old ways will no longer work. A new age is dawning; the Kingdom of God is breaking out into the world. He wants us to be on the leading edge. We desire to follow Jesus wherever he leads, even if that means arriving at our destination under the weight of a cross.
Father, give me the eyes to see your little ones and the grace to respond to their needs with a cup of water, a welcome, a smile, an act of charity that will reveal you to them through me.
We also pray for the persecuted church, especially our brothers and sisters who live in the ancestral homelands of the Middle East. Many have already taken up the cross and laid down their lives in witness to their faith. Give them strength and encouragement, Lord.
Faith in action. Are we willing to live what we believe? Am I willing to risk it all for Jesus? Will my faith challenge the relationships that I have with my family? My friends? In my job? How will I have to live differently today so that the people I meet and greet will know that I belong to God and his church, the body of Christ?
In 1 Corinthians 1:23 St. Paul declares that in all the churches he preaches Christ, and him crucified. The story of the way Jesus died is tied up to the message of the resurrection. One leads to the other. We are called to pick up our cross and follow Jesus. The reward is the liberating confidence in knowing that death has been overcome and the grave cannot hold us. We will rise to new life with Jesus.