Franciscan Friar Fr. Paul Gallagher reflects on the Gospel text for the Thirteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time. Are you one who enjoys transition and new possibilities, or one who prefers consistency?
The content is edited by Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity Sister Anne Marie Lom and Joe Thiel. The excerpts from the Sunday readings are prepared by Joe Thiel. To read or download the complete pdf with excerpts for your prayer, please click here Franciscan Gospel Reflection July 2 2023. Excerpts are from the Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States of America, second typical edition © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC. Used with permission. All rights reserved. No portion of this text may be reproduced by any means without permission in writing from the copyright owner. Photos: Holy Family Convent, Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity Motherhouse, Manitowoc, Wisconsin
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 righteous 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 he is a disciple–amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward.”
The Gospel text for this Sunday is the conclusion of Jesus’ instruction to the apostles before he sends them out to preach to “the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Matthew describes Jesus as being moved with compassion for the people because “they were troubled and abandoned.” (Matthew 9:36) Therefore, Jesus has called twelve of his disciples and bestowed upon them the authority that he himself was given, and he sends them to the lost. The instruction that the apostles received last week continues in this Gospel.
This Gospel text is the first time in Matthew’s Gospel where the word cross is used. We may associate the cross here with the cross of Jesus. While that may be a way to personally reflect on the Gospel, to focus exclusively on Jesus’ cross misses the reality that Jesus and his contemporaries lived in a world where the Romans used crucifixion as a form of execution to discourage undesired behavior. A Roman general crucified 2,000 Jews and placed them on the roadsides of Galilee after putting down an attempted revolt.
Jesus cautions the apostles that they must love him more than one’s family. This is shocking to Jesus’ contemporaries. Most of us in our culture were raised in a way that would prepare us for the day when we would leave home to start our own families. For a person to leave one’s family would be difficult to imagine for Jesus’ contemporaries. One’s life and identity were tied to maintaining their status within their family and society. You may think of the fate of the young prodigal son. Worth, honor, and financial support were all based in one’s family.
While Jesus’ way of instructing may seem peculiar and even a bit offensive in our culture, that would not have been so for the people that Jesus was addressing. Jesus was speaking in a way that was familiar to the Jews of his day. Many believed that when the time came breaking into history, there would be division among families, and one member of a family rising up against another. Even today, those familiar with the RCIA can recount stories of families ostracizing those who have chosen to join the Catholic Church.
While Jesus’ instruction reminds the disciples of what they are leaving behind, he also speaks of what they will receive. They were the first ones to have received Jesus himself, and they will receive the prophet’s reward. They too are being sent as representatives of Jesus. They can expect a similar reward. As the simplest act of courtesy, giving a cup of water, will reap abundant blessing from God, the gift of their sacrifice to proclaim God’s coming will be blessed in the same way. Jesus’ instruction would have made a shocking impact on the early disciples as they prepared to proclaim the coming of God. He reminds them of the dedication required of them, and the great blessing being bestowed on them for their willingness to accept this responsibility. While Jesus’ disciples risk the real possibility of being rejected by family, they are also joining a new community whose central relationship is in Jesus.
- How many different support networks are you part of?
- Do you have a sense that you too are part of these organizations?
- How are you affected by dividedness within the society in which we live?
- Are you one who enjoys transition and new possibilities, or one who prefers consistency?
- Who are the people whose relationship you most value?
- Has your relationship with God ever come between your other relationships?
- Do you know people who have had family relationships threatened or lost because of their effort to live as they believed God has called then?
- When it comes to your spiritual life and relationship to God, how is God present in the difficult and painful periods of your life?
- Can you take some time now to talk to God about your own desire for and/or fear of being in relationship with God?