Sunday Sermon for July 2, 2017, the Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
2Ki 4:8-11, 14-16a; Rom 6:3-4, 8-12; Mt 10:37-42
In the readings today we hear about our own dignity as Christian persons and also about the way we, as Christian people, are to treat others. We look first at the point of our own dignity. In the second reading St. Paul reminds us that we are baptized into Jesus Christ so we might live in newness of life. For this reason, he says, we are to consider ourselves dead to sin and living for God in Christ Jesus.
It is a great privilege to be a member of Jesus Christ. It means that we share in His divine nature, we share in His divine life, we share in His victory over sin and death, we share in His inheritance. St. Paul tells us that death has no power over Jesus. This means that as members of Christ death has no power over us either. We were baptized into the death and resurrection of the Lord, so while we still have to enter physically into death and participate physically in the resurrection, spiritually we have already died, resurrected, and been glorified with Jesus.
Living in newness of life means we have to live the life of Christ and be the continuation of the life of Christ, allowing our Lord to use our voice to speak to others, to use our hands to serve others, etc. Our Lord teaches us in the Gospel today: “Whoever receives you receives me.” So, living the life of Christ is putting into action the truth of who we are as members of Jesus Christ. At the same time that we are to serve others, we must also allow others to practice charity toward us.
In other words, the great privilege of being a member of Christ comes also with a tremendous responsibility. None of us can require others to treat us with charity, but we are required to treat others with charity. If someone receives us, we are to treat them as our Lord treated those who received Him. After all, if it is really Jesus being received when we are received, then those who received us should walk away knowing they have had an encounter with the Lord through us.
Our Lord speaks in the Gospel about the reward someone will be given for receiving a prophet, a righteous man, or a little one because he is a disciple, but the reward is not ours to worry about. The Lord will reward the people for their goodness; we have an obligation simply to treat our benefactors as our Lord would treat them. Of course, we must also recall that our Lord told us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. He spoke often about the need to forgive and, from the Cross, demonstrated that teaching in a most profound manner. So it is not only those who receive us who should know they have encountered Christ, but also those who refuse to receive us. This means that we have to treat each person we encounter as Jesus, even those who do not act like Him.
In the first reading we have a beautiful example of charity given to a Prophet and the reward given by our Lord for the goodness of the woman who was so kind. She did not extend charity to Elisha hoping that she would receive a favor in return. Her charity was real because it was not selfish. The Prophet, who graciously received her charity, also sought to give to his benefactor. Learning that she was without a son, the Prophet gave her a promise that only God Himself could provide: she would have a son within the year.
So, the prophet, the righteous man, or the disciple will want to extend charity to others, but beyond what they are able to do naturally, the reward given to others for their charity must come from God. However, like the woman who recognized Elisha, the person who extends the charity must be able to recognize that this person is a prophet, a righteous man, or a disciple. Most of us will not be recognized as a prophet by others, although we are so by our Baptism. However, each of us should be recognized as being righteous because we are disciples of Jesus Christ and children of God.
If we look at our own self and realize that we might not be living the life of Jesus well enough to be recognized as such, then we have not yet died to ourselves. Jesus tells us that if we lose our life for His sake, then we will find it. Only by dying to ourselves will we find our true life, that newness of life which revels our profound dignity as Christian persons: the life of Jesus.
Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.