Sunday, July 11, 2010

Gospel for Monday, 15th Week in Ordinary Time

From: Matthew 10:34-11:1

Jesus' Instructions to the Apostles (Continuation)
(Jesus said to His disciples) [34] "Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.[35] For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; [36] and a man's foes will be those of his own household. [37] He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me; [38] and he who does not take his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me. [39] He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.

[40] He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me. [41] He who receives a prophet because he is a prophet shall receive a prophet's reward, and he who receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man shall receive a righteous man's reward. [42] And whoever gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he shall not lose his reward."

The Mission of John the Baptist. Jesus' Reply
[1] And when Jesus had finished instructing His twelve disciples, He went on from there to teach and preach in their cities.

34-37. Our Lord has not come to bring a false and earthly peace--the sort of tranquility the self-seeking person yearns for; He wants us to struggle against our own passions and against sin and its effects. The sword He equips us with for this struggle is, in the words of Scripture, "the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God" (Ephesians 6:17), "lively and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart" (Hebrews 4:12).

The word of God in fact leads to these divisions mentioned here. It can lead, even within families, to those who embrace the faith being regarded as enemies by relatives who resist the word of truth. This is why our Lord goes on (verse 37) to say that nothing should come between Him and His disciple--not even father, mother, son or daughter: any and every obstacle (cf. Matthew 5:29-30) must be avoided.

Obviously these words of Jesus do not set up any opposition between the first and fourth commandments (love for God above all things and love for one's parents): He is simply indicating the order of priorities. We should love God with all our strength (cf. Matthew 22:37), and make a serious effort to be saints; and we should also love and respect--in theory and in practice--the parents God has given us; they have generously cooperated with the creative power of God in bringing us into the world and there is so much that we owe them. But love for our parents should not come before love of God; usually there is no reason why these two loves should clash, but if that should happen, we should be quite clear in our mind and in heart about what Jesus says here. He has in fact given us an example to follow on this point: "How is it that you sought Me? Did you not know that I must be in My Father's house?" (Luke 2:49)--His reply when, as a youth, Mary and Joseph found Him in the Temple of Jerusalem after a long search. This event in our Lord's life is a guideline for every Christian--parent or child. Children should learn from it that their affection for their parents should never come before their love for God, particularly when our Creator asks us to follow Him in a way which implies special self-giving on our part; parents should take the lesson that their children belong to God in the first place, and therefore He has a right to do with them what He wishes, even if this involves sacrifice, even heroic sacrifice. This teaching of our Lord asks us to be generous and to let God have His way. In fact, however, God never lets Himself be outdone in generosity. Jesus has promised a hundredfold gain, even in this life, and later on eternal life (cf. Matthew 19:29), to those who readily respond to His will.

38-39. The teaching contained in the preceding verses is summed up in these two succinct sentences. Following Christ, doing what He asks, means risking this present life to gain eternal life.

"People who are constantly concerned with themselves, who act above all for their own satisfaction, endanger their eternal salvation and cannot avoid being unhappy even in this life. Only if a person forgets himself and gives himself to God and to others, in marriage as well as in any other aspect of life, can he be happy on this earth, with a happiness that is a preparation for, and a foretaste of, the joy of Heaven" ([St] J. Escriva, "Christ Is Passing By", 24). Clearly, Christian life is based on self-denial: there is no Christianity without the Cross.

40. To encourage the Apostles and to persuade others to receive them, our Lord affirms that there is an intimate solidarity, or even a kind of identity, between Himself and His disciples. God in Christ, Christ in the Apostles: this is the bridge between Heaven and earth. (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:21-23).

41-42. A prophet's mission is not essentially one of announcing future events; his main role is that of communicating the word of God (cf. Jeremiah 11:2; Isaiah 1:2). The righteous man, the just man, is he who obeys the Law of God and follows His paths (cf. Genesis 6:9; Isaiah 3:10). Here Jesus tells us that everyone who humbly listens to and welcomes prophets and righteous men, recognizing God in them, will receive the reward of a prophet and a righteous man. The very fact of generously receiving God's friends will gain one the reward that they obtain. Similarly, if we should see God in the least of His disciples (verse 42), even if they do not seem very important, they are important, because they are envoys of God and of His Son. That is why he who gives them a glass of cold water--an alms, or any small service--will receive a reward, for he has shown generosity to our Lord Himself (cf. Matthew 25:40).

1. In chapters 11 and 12 the Gospel records the obduracy of the Jewish leaders toward Jesus, despite hearing His teaching (chapter 5-7) and seeing the miracles which bear witness to the divine nature of His person and His doctrine (chapters 8 and 9).
Source: "The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries". Biblical text taken from the Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries made by members of the Faculty of Theology of the University of Navarre, Spain. Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland. Reprinted with permission from Four Courts Press and Scepter Publishers, the U.S. publisher.

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