13th of the Year, 2nd July
Our Lord is very specific in the teaching we find from that short portion of St. Matthew`s Gospel which we have just heard read to us and He gives us five points on how our Christian Life should be based and by which our living out of that Christian Life might be recognized by others. When we looked at the life of St. John the Baptist last Sunday we discovered that it was not so much what he said, that drew the crowds to him, but rather the example of his life and his selfless pointing away from himself towards Jesus for whom he was the forerunner!
In today`s reading from St. Matthew chapter 10 we find Jesus giving The Twelve five points to follow concerning Christian Love:
1). Love of God should come ever before love for father or mother, husband or wife, children, members of the family. Normally for those who love Jesus this should not be a problem but sometimes we might be tempted to put family members above all else. Jesus tell the twelve very plainly that anyone preferring father or mother, or son or daughter – or for that matter anybody else is not worthy of me.
2). Again, Jesus emphasises the need to take up the cross – to share His sufferimg – when he tell them, `Anyone who does not take up his cross and follow in my footsteps is not worthy of me.
3). He warns them against self-seeking and doing their own thing, being self-absorbed for he shows that if they follow their own self-seeking style and desires they will lose the heavenly life!
4). Jesus unites Himself with the twelve as His missionaries and disciples when he declares: `Anyone wh9 welcomes you welcomes me, and those who welcome me welcome the one who sent me.` So, already there is the promise of union through Jesus, with His heavenly Father. The Lord goes on to elaborate the rewards for those who have welcomed a prophet or holy person.
5). Lastly, Jesus points to the twelve the Way of Compassion illustrating that the smallest gesture such as offering a glass of water to a little one in need gets the greatest reward which is the gift of Jesus himself!
Jesus makes it very plain that to follow in His Way it is necessary to put God, that is Father, Jesus the Son and Word, and The Holy Spirit before every person and thing. The very gift of life that we have received, responsible though our parents have been, comes, first of all from God himself, who sent his Son Jesus for the redemption of creation and our salvation.
There is a pointer to putting God above all things when Jesus, having been found in the Temple, as a youth by his anxious parents Mary and Joseph, after a long search, responded with the words: “How is it that you sought me ? Did you not know that I must be in my Father`s House? (Luke 2:49) It is a lesson that children should learn that their affection for their parents should never come before their love for God and, conversely, parents should likewise bear in mind that their children belong to God first of all.
This teaching of our Lord, to us as much as to The Twelve, asks us to be generous and to let God have his way. But then our loving God never lets himself be outdone in generosity. Remember that Jesus has promised a hundredfold return, even in this life and later on in the eternal life (Mt.19.29) to those who freely respond to his holy will.
We are called, just like The Twelve, to self-denial. This means saying “NO” to ourselves many times each day for love of God and others. In other words it means saying “NO” to our evil and selfish inclinations: our pride, lust, envy, laziness, greed and vanity. This is a “Dying to Self” or losing our own self-will and inclinations which is a carrying of our Cross for Jesus precisely because saying “NO” to ourselves is a difficult thing
St. Paul in that wonderful passage from chapter 6 of his letter to the Romans when he says, “When we were baptised in Christ Jesus we were baptised into his death; in other words, when we were baptised we went into the tomb with him and joined him in death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the Father`s glory, we too might live a new life.”
Jesus, by the power of His Holy Spirit constant pours grace upon us in his word and sacraments that we might achieve more fully the grace of self-denial and union with Him. In this way we can trjuly see ourselves as being “dead to sin and living for God in Christ Jesus”.
We get a foretaste of the loving generosity of God in that story we heard from the second book of the Kings, from the Old Testament, where we heard of Elisha`s, the apostle of the great prophet Elijah, encounter with the Shunamite woman who had shown him such great kindness. It seems that Elisha was at something of a loss on how to reward her. His own servant, Gehazi, clearly a wiser and holy man pointed the way for God had blessed the childless woman informing her, through Elisha that she would have a son!
All of us have difficulties with our besetting sins, whatever they are, and needing to say “NO”. We have countless saints in Heaven, especially Mary the Mother of the Church, who are ready to come to our aid for the asking. This saying “NO” is our daily task if we are to follow our Saviour Jesus. Let us never be afraid to ask God, through Our Lady and with the saints, that we might always have the right priorities in our love: God above all things and people, that we might follow Jesus daily and cheerfully by taking up our cross that we may say “YES” to God and “NO” to ourselves and that we might always learn to live our life for God in Christ Jesus our Lord.