FEASTING ON THE WORD
"If you meditate on the Scriptures it will appear to you in its brilliant splendor." ―St. Pio of Pietrelcina
Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)
2 Kings 4:8-11, 14-16A | Psalm 89:2-3, 16-17, 18-19 | Romans 6:3-4, 8-11 | Matthew 10:37-42
Today marks the Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time. The passages we will be exploring focus on accepting God's messenger, embracing a fresh existence in Christ, prioritizing Jesus in our lives, and engaging in simple acts of caring.
Kenneth brought his Dobermann puppy to the vet with a request to have its tail entirely removed. The vet expressed reluctance, questioning the necessity of such a drastic measure. Curious, the vet asked, "Why completely?" To which Kenneth responded, "You see, my mother-in-law is scheduled to visit, and I want to avoid any indication that she is welcome in our home."
Acts of generous hospitality do not go unnoticed. God's favor never fails to reward our kindness with even greater abundance. In our first reading, we encounter the story of the traveling prophet Elisha, who arrives in the city of Shunem and is warmly received by an elderly couple known for their hospitality. Despite their own advanced age and lack of children, the couple extends an unconditional invitation to Elisha, offering him a place to stay whenever he visits their area. They not only demonstrate their reverence for the prophet by welcoming him into their home but also support his mission by providing him with his own living space. As a token of gratitude, Elisha blesses the childless couple, assuring them that they will no longer be barren but will be blessed with a son.
Deejhay, an altar server, was engaged in prayer alongside Fr. Ramon Liwasan, his parish priest. During their prayer session, Deejhay uttered a familiar prayer that Fr. Ramon had heard on numerous occasions: "Lord, remove the cobwebs from my life." Just as Deejhay uttered these words, Fr. Ramon interjected, "Lord, kill the spider." Often, we implore the Lord for forgiveness regarding a specific sin, but we fail to address the root cause of temptation that lingers in our lives.
Those who have embraced Christ in faith and have been embraced by Him through the sacrament of Baptism are called to live in accordance with their transformed identity. In his letter to the Romans, Saint Paul teaches that Baptism signifies a death to the old way of life and a rebirth as a new person. Once a person has been liberated from a distressing situation, it is illogical for them to continue dwelling in that state. We cannot be complicit in questionable and irregular practices. We cannot remain silent while fundamental rights are restricted and undermined. We cannot be passive in the face of pervasive misinformation and falsehoods. We cannot endorse selective justice and double standards. If we have been set free from sin, if we have died to sin, it is irrational for us to persist in living a sinful existence. We must no longer live as if we have not undergone the transformative experience of Baptism. Saint Paul's message to the Romans encourages us to reflect on whether the effects of our Baptism are still evident in our daily actions and concerns.
Catholic missionary to Papua New Guinea, Fr. Joey Castillo, became deeply concerned about the attitude of his seminarian nephew Harold. The young man, a practicing Catholic, had promised to become a missionary like him. But he broke his vow when he was appointed Presidential adviser for flagship programs and projects. Fr. Joey requested prayer for him: “Pray for Harold. He has degenerated into an adviser to the president when he should be serving the King of kings.”
In ordinary circumstances, it is usually straightforward to recognize the significance of various matters and concerns. However, certain situations can overwhelm us to the point where our priorities become muddled. In the Gospel passage, Jesus presents us with a challenging dilemma: we must decide which is of greater importance, our faith in Jesus or our loyalty to our family. It is important to note that Jesus is not attacking family life in the Gospel. He is not instructing his disciples to disregard their families or relinquish their familial responsibilities in the name of discipleship. God does not imply that we cannot love our families. Honoring our parents, siblings, and relatives is not only commendable but also commanded by God. Our Lord simply warns his disciples about the conflicts and misunderstandings they will encounter as they live out his teachings. Christian living entails a life of sacrifice, self-denial, and bearing daily crosses, and nothing should take precedence over remaining faithful to Jesus. This includes persecution, succumbing to fear, as well as family ties or pressures. Among our priorities, God should always occupy the foremost position. Everything and everyone else should take a secondary role.
During a conversation between the pig and the cow, the pig expressed her dismay at being unpopular. She pointed out to the cow how people often praised her gentle nature and kind eyes. The pig acknowledged that while the cow provided milk and cheese, she, the pig, offered even more to people. She provided bacon, ham, bristles, and even her tenderloins were roasted to perfection with crispy crackling. Despite this, the pig couldn't understand why she was not well-liked. After pondering for a moment, the cow responded, "Perhaps it's because I give while I am still alive, and I provide milk that is intended for my calf."
In a similar vein, Jesus reminds us that when we welcome His followers and the Good News they bring, and when we perform even the smallest acts of kindness towards them, we are essentially receiving Jesus Himself and God who sent them. Moreover, we are assured that our reward of eternal life will not be lost. It is natural to feel overwhelmed by the immense challenges present in our world. However, acts of hospitality need not always be grand or revolutionary. There is no requirement to single-handedly eradicate world hunger, solve global warming, or discover a cure for the coronavirus. Simply showing care and compassion is enough. Even offering a cup of cold water out of love can make a significant impact. Hospitality involves remaining attentive to opportunities for caring and demonstrating God's loving kindness. Saint Teresa of Calcutta encapsulated this idea perfectly when she said, "We cannot all do great things, but we can do small things with great love."
Jeff Jacinto, PhD, DHum