The Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time July 2, 2017
2 Kings 4, 8-11 + Psalm 89 + Romans 6, 3-4 + Matthew 10, 37-42
St Joseph Parish, Norman, OK
The culture and customs alive at the time Jesus spoke these words are not too different from our culture today. Here among us in this parish, customs and cultural identity are important. It matters if you are from Mexico, or Cuba, or Venezuela, Columbia, or Honduras. Your name matters. It tells who your father and perhaps who your mother is and their parents as well. Having children was important too, because when you aged and were no longer able to care for yourself, having many children brought the possibility of security and care. The family network provided safety, dignity, and respect. It also provided a future.
When Jesus says these things, it is disturbing. He is questioning the very core value and very structure of social and family systems. So, in this part of Matthew’s Gospel when he is preparing his disciples for their mission he wants them find their identity in him, not their past, and he wants them to find their future in their relationship with him rather than with their kin.
Those people believed that after they died, they somehow lived on in their children, so to be childless was to have no future. Children were a blessing and a promise. So, when Jesus asks his disciples to value him more than children, he is asking them to stake their future on him, and only through him would there be a future. He wants their identity. He wants being his disciple to be more important than being a mother or father. That is not to say that they should not be good parents, or good children, but rather that being his disciple would make those relationships fruitful and life giving. This is what he means by saying a disciple must lose one’s life in order to take up life again in a new way.
The demands he is making however do not seem to be for everyone. These are words spoken to those who are going out on mission in his name. Everyone is not going. However, with the second part of this Gospel, Jesus speaks to those who will remain at home when he begins to talk about hospitality. Those on mission are to become so much like Christ that welcoming them will be the same as welcoming Christ. For those who exercise this hospitality there is a bond, a solidarity that brings them all into communion. For sharing food or even that little cup of water signifies a bond, a unity, communion. Some will give up everything and take to the road for Jesus. Others give those representatives of Jesus a place in their home and in their lives.
In the end, all of us must decide which it will be for us. There is no middle option. We welcome and support those with love who carry on the most demanding part of Christ’s mission and bind ourselves to them, or we give up everything and put our hope and future into our relationship with the master.