OT XIII: 2 Kgs 4:8-11, 14-16a; Rom 6:3-4, 8-11; Mt 10:37-42
The Gospel lesson concludes Jesus' great “missionary discourse” in which he instructs his twelve disciples on the cost and the reward of the commitment required of a disciple. The first half of these sayings of Jesus details the behavior expected from his disciples and the second half speaks of the behavior of others towards the disciples.
“Whoever loves father or mother or children more than me is not worthy of me…." These words may sound a bit extreme, since family comes first for most of us. What Jesus means is that all loyalties must give place to loyalty to God. When we become followers of Christ, it really does change our priorities “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me”
If we ask ourselves why we should love Christ more than our most dearly beloved relations and friends, then the answer we find is that the friendship, the closeness, already offered to us in Christ is something which goes further and deeper than even the very closest human relationship.
“What a morbid religion you have!” a Muslim said one day about Christianity. “All that emphasis on suffering and death can't be good.”
But suffering and death do not stand by themselves, for a Christian. We are never to think of them as if they were the whole story. We never think of Christ's suffering and death without thinking of his resurrection; and likewise our own suffering and death are openings to resurrection. The last word is not suffering and death, but “that we might walk in newness of life.”
There is no deep life without a lot of dying to oneself. The way to deeper life is not through exaltation of the ego, but through its death. The false self, the self-made self, the ego and its false pride: this has to die – or rather burst, because it is nothing real but only a bubble. “Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.”
"Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.". We live in a world where "finding their lives" is the paramount ambition of the majority of people. But Jesus tells us very clearly that this should not be our main concern. What he asks of us is that we should “lose this life" which means that we must stop living for ourselves alone. We must forget our own security and work toward the security of others. We must learn to take our own health a bit less seriously in order to care for those who are sick and hungry. We must stop polluting the environment so that the rest of the world will have clean air to breathe. All these things fall into place when we lose ourselves in caring for others.
Jesus assures his disciples that whoever shows them hospitality will be blessed. Those who receive Jesus receive the One who sent him. So, too, those who help the "little ones" (messengers) will be amply rewarded. Our hospitality for others will be reward by Jesus. Hospitality means encountering the presence of God in others, usually where we least expect to find Him. The virtue of hospitality is the virtue of recognizing the presence of God in others and nourishing this presence. In the words of Mother Teresa, "The Gospel is written on your fingers." Holding up her fingers, one at a time, she accented each word: "You-Did-It-To-Me." Mother Teresa then added: "At the end of your life, your five fingers will either excuse you or accuse you of doing it unto the least of these.”
We, as a community, are to look for the opportunities to be hospitable-- and, of course, there are many ways of offering hospitality. Maybe we offer hospitality simply by offering a stranger a kind word or a smile. When we live in such a busy and hectic world, we tend to brush off people who need help. A kind smile or a “hello" to someone waiting with us in a grocery line may be the only kindness that person encounters all day. As disciples called to receive Jesus in others let’s be charitable, kind and hospitable to others.