02 July. 13th Sunday in O. T.

In the Eucharist we welcome Jesus Christ into our lives, 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 4:8ff

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.”

1st 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.”


A very stark teaching

Even allowing for robust semitic expression (which can present preference in terms of opposites), the teaching of Jesus is stark: faith over family, or, slightly more gently, the family of the faith over our natural family. Not many of us would like to have to choose between these important realities or even put them in order of preference. We do know, however, from our own direct experience that the kind of conversation we can have within the family of the faith is often deeper than the kind of talk that happens typically in families.  (Kieran O’Mahony)


{Click here for exegetical commentary on today’s readings}

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.

Gospel and Family Values

[José Antonio Pagola]

Frequently we believers have defended «the family» abstractly, without stopping to reflect on what is the family project, understood and lived from the perspective of the Gospel. But it’s not enough to defend the family as an undisputed value, since family can be expressed in all kinds of ways. There are families that are open to serve society, and others turned inward exclusively to their own interests. Some families teach selfishness, while some teach solidarity. There are families that liberate , and others that are oppressive.

Jesus firmly defends the institution of the family and the stability of marriage. He has criticized children who don’t recognize their parents. But for Jesus the family isn’t something absolute or untouchable. It’s not an idol. There’s something above it and before it, namely the Kingdom of God and God’s justice.

What’s most central for Jesus isn’t the family of our blood-relatives, but the world-wide family that we need to build among all God’s children, working with Jesus to open up paths that lead to where the Father reigns. That’s why, if the claims of family become an obstacle to following Jesus in this project, he asks us to break free from such family bonds: «No one who prefers father or mother to me is worthy of me. No one who prefers son or daughter to me is worthy of me.»

If tight-knit family ties impede real solidarity and fraternity with others, preventing a person from working for the justice God wants among us all, Jesus calls us a critical freedom, even if this brings with it conflicts and tensions for the family.

Are our homes a school of Gospel-values, like fraternity, the responsible search for a more just society, sobriety, service, prayer, forgiveness? Or are they precisely the place of «non-evangelization», and go about transmitting our society’s selfishness, injustice, business-as-usual, alienation and superficiality?

Is there a kind of family that orients the children to selfish narcissism, to a settled and safe life, an ideal of maximum wealth and luxury, forgetting everyone else? Is a child being well educated if it is encouraged only to compete in rivalry, and not to serve in solidarity? Is this the kind of family we should promote as Catholics? Is this the home where new generations can hear the Gospel? Or is a conversion of this family-life possible, to follow the project of life that Jesus wants?



  1. Padraig McCarthy says:

    Kieran O’Mahony, above, says about the reading: “the teaching of Jesus is stark.”

    I think of it rather on the lines of how the Lions Rugby Head Coach Warren Gatland might address the players: “If you’re not 100% committed to this match, you have no place on the team!” Matthew Chapter 10 starts with Jesus sending out the twelve disciples. He forewarns them: “I’m sending you out like sheep among wolves… Brother will betray brother, and the father his child …” This is where the starkness enters, and it reflects part of the experience of the early church. This is the context of today’s reading.

    Those early Christians knew, as we know, that Jesus is not saying we should not love (that’s the word in Greek, where the Jerusalem Bible has “prefer”) our parents and children. Rather, he is saying that a far stronger foundation for that love is when it is built on our following of him. It may sound very big-headed of Jesus, but this was the experience of the Christians for whom the Gospel was written; and it is my experience too.

    As his followers, we are engaged in a far greater enterprise than relationships built on natural family. We are engaged in the mission for which we pray: “Thy kingdom come!” This is addressed to the Father from whom we receive our very being, and who is the foundation of our vision of all human beings as members of the one family. Our natural families, living in their love of one another, are embodying the Kingdom in that situation. This is the case even when we are not aware of it: remember Matthew 25: “Lord, when did we see you hungry …?” The hospitality we are called to exercise is entirely non-exclusive. It is universal. It is catholic.

    The reading, perhaps reflecting the oral transmission of the teaching, has a pattern. First we have the three sayings concluding in “is not worthy”, capped by the saying of how we truly find our lives. Then we have three “welcome sayings”, capped by the teaching about even just a cup of cold water, which can be very welcome on a hot day! That cup of cold water can embody and reflect the relationship of Jesus with the one who sent him. “Anyone who welcomes you … welcomes the one who sent me!” An extraordinary statement – stark in a different way. The Shunemite woman also embodies this.

    This all reflects what the second reading reminds us of. Baptism is a wonderful celebration, but it is not just a joyful occasion to give the candidate a name and to have a party and a bouncing castle. it is total transformation. We die! And we rise to live a new life, the life of the risen Christ. It is indeed a “Christ-ening”! We are anointed as prophets and priests and pastors of all the people of God.

    However Warren Gatland might address his “disciples” (or choose your own example) can be a “sacrament” of the greater reality of how Jesus addresses you and me today.

  2. Padraig, listening to that reading from Matthew at Mass this morning it did strike me as being very harsh. So, thank you for that reflection.
    I haven’t done much scriptural exegesis but the little bit I have done keeps throwing up this concept of “redaction”. I have recently read and studied Peter in the New Testament –edited by Raymond Brown, Karl Donfried and John Reumann and redaction and the spin the redactors put on certain pieces of scripture makes you wonder if there anything you can hold onto as the Gospel truth. The flip side of that, is, of course, that you do not have to take “harsh” scripture as seriously as you might otherwise have do.

  3. The other thing that struck me this morning from that reading is “the prophets reward” for prophets and those who welcome the prophets. Those prophets who founded the ACP and all of us who welcomed and support them should look forward to our reward then !! Just hope those lines were not the result of redaction.

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