28Jun 28 June, 2020. 13th Sunday, Year A

In the Eucharist we welcome Christ and are also welcomed by him, strengthened for our journey. With his grace, we try to extend the same welcome to others whose lives touch our own.

1st Reading: 2 Kings 4:8-11; 14-16a

A woman welcomed Elisha, recognising him for a holy man of God

One day Elisha was passing through Shunem, where a wealthy woman lived, who urged him to have a meal. So whenever he passed that way, he would stop there for a meal. 9 She said to her husband, “Look, I am sure that this man who regularly passes our way is a holy man of God. 10 Let us make a small roof chamber with walls, and put there for him a bed, a table, a chair, and a lamp, so that he can stay there whenever he comes to us.”

One day when he came there, he went up to the chamber and lay down there. He said, “What then may be done for her?” Gehazi answered, “Well, she has no son, and her husband is old.” He said, “Call her.” When he had called her, she stood at the door. He said, “At this season, in due time, you shall embrace a son.” She replied, “No, my lord, O man of God; do not deceive your servant.”

Responsorial: Psalm 88:2-3, 16-19

R./: For ever I will sing the goodness of the Lord

I will sing for ever of your love, O Lord;
through all ages my mouth will proclaim your truth.
Of this I am sure, that your love lasts for ever,
that your truth is firmly established as the heavens. (R./)

Happy the people who acclaim such a king,
who walk, O Lord, in the light of your face,
who find their joy every day in your name,
who make your justice the source of their bliss. (R./)

For it is you, O Lord, who are the glory of their strength;
it is by your favour that our might is exalted:
for our ruler is in the keeping of the Lord;
our king in the keeping of the Holy One of Israel. (R./)

2nd Reading:Romans 6:3-4, 8-11

Our baptism calls us away from sin to live a new life in Christ

My brethren, Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. For whoever has died is freed from sin. But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Gospel: Matthew 10:37-42

To be a real disciple is to put the spirit of Jesus before all else

Jesus said to his disciples, “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; and whoever does not take up he cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.

“Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple-truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.”

BIBLE

Welcoming a Saint

It is a wonderful thing to meet a man or woman of God. There is about such people a peace of such a fullness as communicates God to us. We, no less than the people of biblical times, are looking for someone to “give us a word:” a word which engenders faith and hope, a word which can ignite the smouldering embers of our heart unto a fire of a love which is beyond us.

To welcome such people in the sense of really accepting the word of the Gospel which they speak, more often through their being and actions rather than their words, is to welcome Christ and his Father. Jesus often speaks in the Gospel of his Father and himself coming to abide in the hearts of those who “keep his words” while the “sweet guest of the soul” is a beautiful title used if the Holy Spirit if the tradition.

Meeting someone good can also threaten us. It faces us with the necessity of change in our own life. Unfortunately this does not just mean the struggle to rid ourselves of obvious moral evil but even of things which are in themselves good and valuable in order to make way for newness. When we come face to face with Jesus the Way, the Truth and the Life the choice is even more radical the most valuable things in life such as family and even the quest for our own self-fulfilment must take second place and the following of Jesus which inevitably involves the cross of self-giving and change must be embraced.

When we choose Christ in baptism we choose immersion (‘baptism’) into his death. We are buried with him, we are grafted on to his death and our “old self” is crucified with him. These images used by Paul in Romans 6:3-11 leave us in no doubt as to the radically of what welcoming Jesus and his word into our lives means. However, just as the woman of Shunem is rewarded with new life for receiving the “man of God” SO the reward from welcoming Jesus is infinitely greater. We be-come the dwelling places of God himself and we become a “new creation” in the image of the Son.

Hospitality of heart

Openness to life! Hospitality of heart – These are some of the themes that suggest themselves through the readings of this Sunday. The woman in the first reading was open to life; she welcomed the prophet into her home, was aware that he was a holy man of God, and set about facilitating his mission. In the gospel we, as disciples of Jesus, listen to his words addressed directly to us telling us how we are to open our lives to him, give him pride of place over family and friends even to the point of bearing his cross. Our welcome is to be whole-hearted, and if I am in any doubt as to where I am to exercise this total acceptance of Christ in my life I have only to turn to my neighbour. “He who welcomes you, welcomes me” Nothing could be clearer. Christ is all around me. He is present in my home, at work, in those who pass me in the street.. He is present in myself! In today’s second reading St Paul adds his voice to the celebration of Christian life! Through baptism we have entered into the great life of the reurrection. No wonder we cry out with the psalmist in joy; “I will sing forever of your love, 0 Lord.” The beautiful story of the Shunemite woman illustrates the fact that God’s word finds acceptance in people’s lives through the instrumentality of human agents. Elisha may seem to be an itinerant preacher. It is the woman who detects his mission and makes room for him in her house. Likewise, many a parent makes space for God in their family life by helping a child learn the words of a prayer and by showing respect for the things of God. When I reflect on how God found a space in my life, I will inevitably return to the influence of a human agent. The gospel’s emphasis on hospitality is presented in the form of a strange equation: “He who welcomes you, welcomes me.”

We may expect, then, that Christ will come to our doors in many disguises and almost always at the wrong time! He may not even be wearing clerical garb! Rather, I may find him hidden in the stranger, the outcast of society, the neighbour, the child needing attention, the sick person.. There are many delightful fairytales of princesses hidden in rags and of princes imprisoned in toads. Every child’s eyes light up in wonder at the moment when the disguise is dropped and the truth is revealed. Openness to wonder, to the mystery of Christ hidden in the other: these qualities are often sadly missing in my life. The “cup of cold water” is proverbially quoted as a somewhat dubious sign of Christian charity. Perhaps this is because it does not cost much in rain-drenched climates! In a hot, dusty climate, however, a drink of cold water can be a life-saver. The attitude of thoughtfulness, the lack of self-absorption; these would seem to underline the Christian attitude towards others. It is not what is given that counts but the heart with which it is given.

A legalistic, mathematical mind tends to measure the bare requirement due to the other. This does not make for a happy environment. No wonder that a sub-theme of today’s liturgy is joy: “Happy the people.. who find their joy every day in your name” we read in the psalm. The open-hearted person is always happy; there is much joy in giving. Cups of cold water may be translated into a letter, a phone-call, a smile, a word of appreciation. They cost little but how the world today is crying out for cups of cold water! Christ is often wounded and struggling in my neighbour. The image that could be explored by the homilist pertaining to the theme of hospitality is that of making a space for God in our lives. The woman of Shunem had a room built on the roof of her house for the prophet so that he might be rested and refreshed for his mission throughout Israel. She made physical space for the holy man of God. Christianity calls on us to make space for Christ and his message in our lives. Where do I find this space? Is it my time? A small part of my earnings to support the preaching of God’s word? Or is it a quiet space in my life where I can turn to welcome the indwelling of Christ in my heart? Mary is the model of Christian hospitality: she made a space in her heart for the Word just as she made a space in her womb for his body. She pondered his words in her heart so that gradually her whole life was filled with his presence.

One Response

  1. Joe O'Leary

    BACK TO LIFE

    Today St Paul tells us that when we were baptized we were baptized into the death of Jesus. This means that all the lonely miseries and anxieties that have oppressed us in the time of confinement can be counted as part of our baptismal sharing in the death of Jesus. “We were buried with him through baptism unto death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4). Well today, we come together again, and it feels like “newness of life”!
    What we missed in the last months was this togetherness as the Christian community. The individual may undergo absorption into Christ’s saving death, in solitary prayerful recollection, but it is the Church that undergoes this experience when we celebrate together the Paschal Mystery in the liturgies of Lent, Passiontide, Holy Week, Easter, Pentecost, all of which became shadowy, virtual events this year. We might well say today, as Jesus does in Luke’s Gospel: “With desire have I desired to eat this Pasch with you” (Luke 24:15).
    Lots of fears, lots of uncertainties remain. But we advance with more courage together, leaning on one another, supporting one another, looking out for one another. The new people of God, created by baptism, might have seemed to dissolve into a scattered set of isolated individuals these last months, The Church as community might have seemed to go into hibernation. Maybe we largely failed, both individually and collectively, to rise to the occasion. Well, let us make a new start. Let us admit that we need one another, and let us resolve not to forget the great spiritual family to which we belong.
    “Death no longer has dominion over him” (Rom 6:9), and we too are no longer slaves of the fear of death. “Consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Rom 6:11). Why are we dead to sin? Not through any achievement of our own, but because “Christ died for our sins” (1 Cor 15:3), and because he says to us as to the paralytic: “Your sins are forgiven” (Mark 2:5). Even if we fall into sins, St John tells us, “we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; he is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but for those of the whole world” (1 John 2:1-2). Paul gives us the same assurance: “Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Is it Christ Jesus, who died, nay rather who was raised, who is even at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us? Who will separate us from the love of Christ?” (Rom 8:33-5).
    It is good to meditate on these words on one’s own. But it is better to hear them together, to share them as our spiritual food. It is still better to sing of them joyfully, since “he prays twice, who sings” (St Augustine), and perhaps they pray thrice, who dance. To break and share the eucharistic loaf, not just in a private spiritual communion, but in the physical touch of those who join in a meal of friendship, feeling the Lord move among them, is better again. Now we still shudder at the danger of handshakes, hugs, or a kiss of peace, but let’s pray that this regime will soon end and that we will appreciate anew the language of touch. Jesus does not want us to become ghosts, cowering in the shadowy realm of the internet, He says “Take, and eat, this is my body!”, which now sounds like a revolutionary break with virtual existence and with a world in which we feel more real when we are online than when we are offline. Jesus calls us out of the shadows, into full, real, offline life,
    “We lived on farms, we lived in cities, and now we’re going live on the internet” (from the 2010 movie, The Social Network). Digitalization of life, more filmed and recorded than actually lived, becomes cannibalization of life, its stockpiling as images and data. The Gospel and the Church strongly resist this trend. Jesus uses the language of the country, talking of seedtime and harvest, sheep and lambs, the birds of the sky and the lilies of the field. He wants us to be together in warm physical presence, and he communicates his own presence in physical signs, water, bread, and wine, font and altar. He creates a community that is not merely a discussion group, but a body, where we are ‘members one of another’ (Rom 12:5) in Him. Perhaps the hour we spend in Church on Sunday is the only hour of the week where we turn off the computer and the smart phone in order to look our neighbour in the eyes, and to be silent in the presence of the Lord.
    Christ really died in the flesh, and not as a Facebook video, and he really rose again in his spiritual glorified body, to raise us with him. Let us this morning tune in to those realities anew, embracing his presence in one another, in the scriptural word, in the sacramental meal. “The last man” that Nietzsche scoffed at, fears to live, hides in a cocoon. “We have found happiness, say the last men, and they blink.” The internet provides the milieu in which they marinate their shrunken souls. “The last Adam became a life-giving spirit” (1 Corinthians 15:45), calling us out of darkness into light and life, together. Let us be glad and rejoice in him.

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