13th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Reflection: Sharing all that we are
By SISTER MARY McGLONE
“Whoever receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward.”
When Jesus made that magnificent promise, he was offering a new twist on traditional Semitic morality that taught that one must care for anyone who is vulnerable. The practice of offering a stranger board and bed developed in a harsh desert climate, one in which everyone involved knew what it was like to be lacking food or shelter.
To welcome the stranger could mean saving that person’s life — and vice versa. At the same time, although the Jewish people’s appreciation of hospitality called them to care for any traveling stranger, their sacramental sense of praying the table blessing meant that they would dine only with people who could share their devotion to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. (That’s the reason for not eating with Gentiles or sinners.)
Stop for a moment and think again about the implications of what’s been said here. First, in Jesus’ culture, anyone who had home and food felt impelled to share not only because that is simply what any respectable person does, but because it was often a question of life or death. Secondly, sharing a table implies that the people gathered are in deep communion with one another. That’s where the prophet’s reward comes in: sharing the table or taking a prophet into your home functions as a sacrament of solidarity; it affects what it symbolizes. You and the prophet become as deeply connected as relatives.
Today’s Liturgy of the Word begins with the wandering prophet Elisha meeting “a woman of influence.” After giving him meals, the woman talked her husband into making a room for Elisha in their empty-nest home. That led Elisha to repay her with one of the Bible’s favorite promises: “You who were childless will soon have a son.” That promise went beyond anything that the apparently unmarried Elisha had received.
The promise we began with comes from the second part of what we hear from Jesus today. The Gospel opens with a statement to the apostles: “Whoever loves father or mother or children more than me is not worthy of me.” Now, that sounds harsh. If we put the prophet’s reward together with the demand to love Jesus and his representatives above all, we realize that Jesus is establishing a new sort of family bond, one based on love and a common commitment rather than blood kinship.
The idea of kinship based on relationship to Jesus rather than family provides a way to understand Paul’s teaching about being baptized into Christ Jesus. For Paul, baptism signifies death to one way of life in order to live in “newness of life.” Paul sees baptism as the way a disciple becomes identified with Christ Jesus — assuming the pattern of his life. It is the entryway into living for God.
Today’s three readings comment on one another. The story of Elisha reflects on the blessings of receiving the stranger, especially when that stranger is a prophet. The Gospel reminds us that receiving a prophet entails both rewards and danger: Those who identify with Christ will learn the lesson of losing their lives — and receiving them back — as Jesus himself did. Paul’s message to the Romans reminds us that baptism incorporates us in two ways: We become family even as we enter into the rhythm of Christ’s death and resurrection.
What are we to take away from these readings? Paul challenges us to recognize that accepting baptism frees us to share all that we are as Jesus did in giving his very body and blood for others. Contemplating Jesus’ words about losing and saving our lives, we realize that he wants us to take this message with utmost seriousness. What Jesus says here anticipates the parable of the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25:31-46). It teaches that acts of Christian hospitality get turned inside out: The guest in need becomes a source of blessing for the host, and the needy visitor becomes prophetic by calling forth saving love. Host and guests are transformed into family.
Today, as we prepare to celebrate the Fourth of July, we might ask ourselves some of the following questions: “Who are the prophets in our society? Who is calling us to a deeper living of the Gospel? Whose need reminds us of the fragility of all life and our universal need for solidarity?” As in the days of Elisha and Jesus, our responses are often a matter of life and death.
(2 Kings 4:8-11, 14-16a)
One day Elisha came to Shunem,
where there was a woman of influence, who urged him to dine with her.
Afterward, whenever he passed by, he used to stop there to dine.
So she said to her husband, “I know that Elisha is a holy man of God.
Since he visits us often, let us arrange a little room on the roof
and furnish it for him with a bed, table, chair, and lamp,
so that when he comes to us he can stay there.”
Sometime later Elisha arrived and stayed in the room overnight.
Later Elisha asked, “Can something be done for her?”
His servant Gehazi answered, “Yes!
She has no son, and her husband is getting on in years.”
Elisha said, “Call her.”
When the woman had been called and stood at the door,
Elisha promised, “This time next year
you will be fondling a baby son.”
(Psalms 89: 2-3, 16-17, 18-19)
(Romans 6: 3-4, 8-11)
Brothers and sisters:
Are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus
were baptized into his death?
We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death,
so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead
by the glory of the Father,
we too might live in newness of life.
If, then, we have died with Christ,
we believe that we shall also live with him.
We know that Christ, raised from the dead, dies no more;
death no longer has power over him.
As to his death, he died to sin once and for all;
as to his life, he lives for God.
Consequently, you too must think of yourselves as dead to sin
and living for God in Christ Jesus.
(Matthew 10: 37-42)
Jesus said to his apostles:
“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 after me is not worthy of me.
Whoever finds his life will lose it,
and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
“Whoever receives you receives me,
and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.
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.”