Discipleship re-arranges values and priorities
Readings: 2 Kings 4, 8-11.14-16a; Ps 89, 2-3.16-17.18-19; Rm 6, 3-4.8-11; Mt 10, 37-42
On the 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time A, we are invited to reflect on the cost and blessings of being a disciple of Christ. I cherish the word I heard from my bible teacher: “Jesus does not want fans, but disciples who are ready to learn from Him as they follow Him”. He doesn’t call people to a kind of entertainment, but instead to radical freedom. Whoever decides to follow Jesus must have one’s priorities re-arranged. Jesus wants to be loved above all.
Moved by love to a change of allegiance
What Jesus says in today’s gospel may be very startling: “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” (Mt 10, 37). Jesus implies a painful detachment from the natural relationships in the family that are meant to support life. This means when one embarks on the journey of disciples, there shouldn’t be anything and anybody to become an obstacle. In another place in the gospel of Matthew, Jesus will say: “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” (Mt13, 44). Finding a treasure in Jesus will motivate one to consider all the other values as relative. Jesus has now become the point of reference. A disciple loves Him more than anything and anybody else. In fact this is what Jesus asked of Peter after the resurrection: “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” (John 21, 15). After assuring Him of his love, Peter was invited to follow the Lord. To follow Jesus is a response of love. This is a love which leads to radical freedom. St. Paul, in his letter to the Philippians gives witness that for the sake of knowing Christ and His love, he was ready to consider everything else as a loss (see Ph 3, 7-11). Rooted in this love, the disciple will be able to say: “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rm 8, 38-39). Yes. The family is very important because in it we live life-supporting relationships but it should never become a reason for Christ’s disciples to be separated from Him.
Following Christ is finding life
To follow Christ means taking on new tastes and preferences. There may be a friction caused by a conflict of values. The world will always propose its values. A disciple of Jesus, after winning a new point of view which is Christ Himself, will be able to bear with the necessary pain of standing alone instead of swimming with the majority. Jesus’ message seems to be telling us: Don’t be afraid of being different! Conforming ourselves to the logic and values of the world would imply denying the Master. The journey that He made with the cross towards Calvary was almost done in solitude. Let us, thus, take up our crosses and follow Him. It is at the cross that He apparently loses life so that we may have it. My beloved founder St. Daniel Comboni encouraged us never to be afraid of the cross because all God’s works are born and thrive at the foot of Calvary. Today’s second reading (Rom 6, 3-4.8-11) reminds us that in our Baptism were each joined to the cross of Christ. We started a journey of continuous renouncement of sin in order to be alive to God in Christ. If we have died with Christ, we shall also live with Him. The evil one knows to disguise itself as promises for happiness. The values that our new Christian identity proposes may be challenging but that is what it means to build on a solid foundation which is Christ Himself and not on sandy foundations of success, wealth, power at all costs. Our self-denial with regard to the above renders us more available for service of God’s kingdom. In order to be free for the kingdom of God, we ought to crucify all the passions and desires of the flesh (Gal 5, 34). Let us never be weighed down by our past, for Christ is calling us to new life.
The second part of today’s gospel text speaks of something that should encourage all those who dare to be radical followers of Christ: They will be like Him in the world. “Whoever receives you receives me”, says Jesus. Every act of goodness towards those sent by Jesus is an act towards Him. The opposition that will certainly come is ugly, but the fact that they represent Christ should bring them satisfaction. Today’s first reading has shown us that, fortunately there are some who are ready to receive the servants of God’s kingdom. The Shunnamite woman gives us an example of receiving the prophet Elisha. The reception offered to Elisha brought blessing to the woman and her barrenness was done away with. God’s servants bring blessing. We have all been blessed to bring blessing to others. May our presence bring consolation to many and open up new perspectives for the hopeless we encounter! Jesus invites us not only to open up our homes and hearts to prophets but also little children, the poor and the least privileged, for in doing this one receives Christ Himself (Mt 18, 5 and Mt 25, 31-46).