This Sunday we celebrate the Thirteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time. The first reading presents an example of an act of kindness to a prophet being rewarded as Jesus says in the Gospel that it will be. The second reading reminds us that we as believers are to live the new life of the resurrected Christ, right now. We are not to wait until we are "in eternity." The gospel tells us that every act of kindness shown to a believer who is in the process of living that life of faith will be rewarded. The reward comes not because of the greatness of the disciple but because of the greatness of the One, whose agent the disciple is.
First Reading: 2 Kings 4:8-11, 14-16a
8 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. 9 So she said to her husband, "I know that he is a holy man of God. Since he visits us often, 10 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." 11 Sometime later Elisha arrived and stayed in the room overnight.
14 Later Elisha asked, "Can something be done for her?" "Yes!" Gehazi answered. "She has no son, and her husband is getting on in years." 15 "Call her," said Elisha. When she had been called, and stood at the door, 16 Elisha promised, "This time next year you will be fondling a baby son."
NOTES on First Reading:
* 4:8 Shunem is about 30 miles northeast of Samaria.
* 4:9 The woman does not really know and appreciate who Elisha is until the end of the story (4:37).
* 4:14 To be childless was considered to be a woman’s greatest misfortune (Gen 16-18; 1 Sam 1).
* 4:16 The woman is skeptical which serves to underscore the miracle.
Second Reading: Romans 6:3-4, 8-11
3 Or are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 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. 5 For if we have grown into union with him through a death like his, we shall also be united with him in the resurrection. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him, so that our sinful body might be done away with, that we might no longer be in slavery to sin. 7 For a dead person has been absolved from sin. 8 If, then, we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, raised from the dead, dies no more; death no longer has power over him. 10 As to his death, he died to sin once and for all; as to his life, he lives for God. 11 Consequently, you too must think of yourselves as (being) dead to sin and living for God in Christ Jesus.
NOTES on Second Reading:
* 6:3 The rhetorical question introduces the idea that the readers should already know this basic tenet of the apostolic teaching. Paul refers to Christian baptism in which the imagery is most easily understood in terms of immersion but it is not certain that early Christian practice always involved immersion. Paul’s language, however, involves far more than just an image or use of bookkeeping terms. For Paul, baptism was the introduction of the believer into a new relationship with Christ, involving a union with Christ’s suffering and dying. Paul emphasizes that the Christian is not simply united with Christ Who won the victory over sin and death but rather he / she is united with Him in the very act by which He won that victory. Thus a believer is dead to sin, having become associated with Christ at the very time in which Jesus formally becomes the Savior.
* 6:4 The resurrection is ascribed to the Father and specifically to the Father’s glory. To some extent this parallel the Old Testament miracles of the Exodus (15:7,11; 16:7,10) which were ascribed to Yahweh’s "Glory" (kabod). Later Paul seems to indicate a role for the Holy Spirit in the resurrection event (Rom 8:11).
* 6:5-8 These verses say about the baptized Christian what Paul will say about Christ in Verses 9-10.
* 6:6 It is not only the material body as distinguished from the soul that is referred to here as being crucified with Christ but rather the whole of an earthly being dominated by a proneness to sin.
* 6:8 We believe because this new life can not be known by the senses.
* 6:9 There is a profound difference between the previous life which Jesus had and the new life He has after the resurrection. The same spirit or life giving principle will also provide new life to believers.
* 6:10 The death of Jesus was a unique event that could never be repeated. The resurrection marked a vast change in both Jesus’ mode of life and His relationship with the Father.
Gospel Reading: Matthew 10:37-42
37 "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; 38 and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
40 "Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me. 41 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. 42 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."
NOTES on Gospel:
* 10:37 There are variations of this saying in Mark 8:34-35;10:29-30, Luke 18:29, and within Matthew in 16:24-25 and 19:29. Although the exact wording which He might have used is in dispute, it is very likely that Jesus did indeed call for a radical dedication to the kingdom. This statement is intended to show how overridingly important the concerns of the Kingdom must be to the disciple. Nothing, even the most important of human ties, must be allowed to take precedence over the concerns of the Kingdom.
* 10:38 This is the first mention of the cross in Matthew. It refers explicitly that of a would be follower but implicitly it also refers to the cross of Jesus otherwise He could not say "and follow after me." Crucifixion was a form of capital punishment that was used by the Romans for the worst offenders of their law who were not Roman citizens.
* 10:39 Here Matthew indicates the great value of life in the Kingdom. Even loss of one’s life is not too large a sacrifice to make in order to secure the kingdom. But if loss of earthly life for Jesus’ sake will be rewarded by everlasting life in the kingdom, one who denies Jesus in order to save his / her earthly life will be condemned to everlasting destruction.
*10:40-42 Those who receive the disciples of Jesus receive Him, and God who sent Him. They will be rewarded accordingly. The other side of the coin is also true in that those who reject the disciples are rejecting Jesus and God who sent Him.
*10:40 This verse explains the nature of the apostolic office based on a legal principle governing a Jewish emissary. The principle is that "A man’s agent is like himself." By this rule the dignity of the Christian missionary is very great indeed since it derives from that of God Himself Who is the source of the mission.
* 10:41 A prophet is one who speaks in the name of God. The reference here refers to the Christian prophets who proclaim the gospel. Since righteousness is to be expected of all the disciples, it is likely that the righteous man of this verse and one of these little ones (Matthew 10:42) do not indicate different groups within the followers of Jesus. It is most probable that all three designations are used here of Christian missionaries specifically in the role of Christian missionaries. Some scholars have taken the different names used in verses 40-42 to refer to different groups within Matthew’s community. If this is correct then the community seems to have been structured as prophets in one group, teachers, faithful Christians or perhaps victims of persecution in the second and finally uneducated simple believers in the last group. The evidence is not conclusive at this time and we can speculate as to which meaning was intended by the original author. In any case, however, Jesus’ close connection with and concern for the individuals involved is clearly brought out as is the idea that the disciples are agents of Jesus and therefore agents of God.