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Thirteenth Sunday – Year A – Ordinary Time
Readings: 2 Kgs 4:8-11, 14-16a; Rom 6:3-4, 8-11; Mt 10:37-42.
1/ Reading I: RSV 2 Kings 4:8 One day Elisha went on to Shunem, where a wealthy woman lived, who urged him to eat some food. So, whenever he passed that way, he would turn in there to eat food. 9 And she said to her husband, “Behold now, I perceive that this is a holy man of God, who is continually passing our way. 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 whenever he comes to us, he can go in there.” 11 One day he came there, and he turned into the chamber and rested there. 14 And he said, “What then is to be done for her?” Gehazi answered, “Well, she has no son, and her husband is old.” 15 He said, “Call her.” And when he had called her, she stood in the doorway. 16 And he said, “At this season, when the time comes around, you shall embrace a son.” And she said, “No, my lord, O man of God; do not lie to your maidservant.”
2/ Reading II: RSV Romans 6:3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. 8 But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him. 9 For we know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 The death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
3/ Gospel: RSV Matthew 10:37 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 water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he shall not lose his reward.”
I. THEME: Hospitality and charity
In the nations of the ancient Near East, when a traveler who missed a trip or visits a friend from a far, the household that he visits must receive him or her with hospitality and eagerness. Today many people are affected by individualism and selfishness, therefore they are reluctant to receive any visitor to their house, and have no patience to wait for their visitor to leave if they received him. Some even use tricks by beat their dog or cat, or by blaming their children as a sign to tell their visitor to leave as soon as possible. But many question, “What is the limit of hospitality?” There is a Vietnamese maxim that can be used as a guide in receiving a guest to one’s house, “Love other as you wish to be loved.” How we want to be treated at our friend’s house, we should treat our visitor as such. Moreover, when we treat others generously, God shall compensate us one hundred-fold. Many New Testament authors recommended the faithfuls to practice and to possess this virtue (See Rom 12:13; 1 Tim 5:10; Heb 13:2; 1 Pet 4:9).
Today readings show us some examples of receiving a visitor with hospitality, and good result that came with it. In the first reading, the Shunamite woman generously received Elisha though she did not actually know who he is. She not only served him and his servant a meal but also made a room for them with every necessary thing when they stop by. Touched by her hospitality, the prophet Elisha used God’s power to grant her a son in her old age. In the second reading, St. Paul advised the faithfuls: since Christ treated us as important guests, we must respond by eliminating all our evil habits in his death so that we shall be also resurrected with Him in glory. In the Gospel, Christ requires His disciples to sacrifice, to give up their wills and to carry their cross to follow Him; they must also open their hand widely to receive and to help everyone in needs because when they are doing so for others, they do for Him (Mt 25).
1/ Reading I:“At this season, when the time comes around, you shall embrace a son.”
1.1/ The hospitality of the Shunamite woman: As mentioned in the introductory, hospitality is a special charater of the nations of the Ancient Near East. This character is mentioned many times in the Old Testament. For examples, Abraham welcomed three guests at Mamre (Gen 18:1-13); Lot welcomed two God’s angels at Sodom (Gen 19:1-11); the Zarephath woman received the prophet Elijah (1 Kgs 17:1-15). In the New Testament, to illustrate the importance of hospitality, Jesus used the story of a man who must awake during the night to give bread to his friend (Lk 11:5-8). One of the reasons why people must always have hospitality is that they probably receive God’s messengers who God sent to them and they don’t know (Heb 13:2). Moreover, if a faithful reads the message of Matthew, chapter 25, he knows hospitality is the standard which God shall use to judge people.
The Shunamite woman is rich. She not only served food for Elisha every time when he passed by Shunamite, but also made for him a private room to sleep. The way she said to her husband showed her deep hospitatity for him, “Behold now, I perceive that this is a holy man of God, who is continually passing our way. 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 whenever he comes to us, he can go in there.”
1.2/ Her hospitatity was deservedly compensated: Recognized her hospitality for him, the prophet Elisha used the power which God gave to him by granting her a son during the old ages of both her and her husband. He announced to her the good new, “At this season, when the time comes around, you shall embrace a son.” We know this is not impossible to God who created the world and He has power to do all things.
2/ Reading II:“You also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.”
2.1/ The meaning of Baptism: According to St. Paul, the sacrament of Baptism has two main acts: when one is immersed in water one is buried with Christ; and when one arises from water one is resurrected with Him. He also explained further about these two acts: When the faithfuls are immersed in water, they let go their own man with all sins and wicked passions; when they arise from water they put on Christ with His holiness and full of His graces.
Since Christ sacrificially died to sanctify us, we must also die for Him. Death here is not understood physically; but it means death for sins and all evil habits in us. Moreover, it is not only to stop sinning, we must also pratice virtues; if we don’t do that, the former sins shall gradually appear and we shall return to the past life when we didn’t receive the sacrament of Baptism yet.
2.2/ The faithfuls must respond to Christ’s sacrificial love: If one received a favor, he must return a favor. The faithful not only received a favor, but a critical favor to be lived forever; therefore, the faithful must not let Christ’s sacrificial love for him to become ineffective. On the opposite, he must try to practice virtues so that he gradually becomes the same image and holiness with Him.
On the progress to become holiness, a faithful isn’t working by himself because he is given the other Paraclete: The Holy Spirit and His seven gifts. The Holy Spirit can guide him to recognize all truth, give him strength to overcome the weakness of his flesh and protect him from all dangers. The important thing for the faithful is to cooperate with the Holy Spirit to produce good for him and for all people.
Therefore, St. Paul advised the faithful, “So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.”
3/ Gospel:“He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives him who sent me.”
3.1/ A disciple must love God more than all other people: Why does God require us to love Him above all: parents, husband, wife and children? The simple reason is because He loves us more than all these people. God is not only created our soul and body and the world for us to live, He also gave us His Only Son to die for our sins so that we can inherit the eternal life with Him forever. God compared His immense love with the parental love when He said, “Though your parents can forsake you, I shall never forsake you” (Isa 49:15). Many people, after feeling God’s immense love, cried out: Verily! No one loves me as God. The history of the Old Testament is full of the examples of people who sacrificed their lives for God such as: Elisha gave up his parents to become God’s prophet (1 Kgs 19:19-21); Abraham was willing to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, for God (Gen 22:1-9); Hannah offered her only son, Samuel, to serve God in His temple (1 Sam 1:27-28); and Jephthah the judge kept his promise to God by sacrificing his daughter (Jdg 11:30-35).
The real love requires us to show in action, not only in words. St. Andrew Phu Yen, though still young, deeply felt God’s love for him, spoke these words before his martyr, “We must take love to return love, life to return life.” There is a contradiction between God’s and human lifestyle and standard: While people try to protect their life at all cost, Jesus taught, “He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it.” He also gives us an example, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (Jn 12:24). Therefore, if a man dies to self so he can live to others, that man really lives and bears many profits for himself and others; but if one selfishly lives only for himself, he shall be lonely and become no help for others.
3.2/ The Christians must have hospitality and charity: Jesus listed three kinds of people which the Christians must receive them with hospitality:
(1) Jesus identifies himself as a disciple: The Greek verb “dékomai” has many meanings. The basic meaning is to receive or to accept if it is for a thing or a message. If it is for a person, the verb means to welcome a person with hospitality. To receive a person is different with to receive a thing because a person has dignity and must be treated adequatedly with human dignity.
Jesus reveals for us an important truth: “He who receives you receives me.” The disciple is the one who is officially sent by Christ. According to diplomatic way, who receives the disciple or his message is to receive Christ himself; in the opposite, who refuses to receive the disciple or his message is to deny Christ himself. Jesus continues to explain further, “and he who receives me receives Him who sent me.” Christ is sent by God and equal to Him; therefore, who receives the disciple is to receive God Himself.
(2) Jesus identifies himself as a prophet and a righteous: Some people ask me: If I support the work you are doing, what profits can we get back? This is the answer from Jesus today, “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.” More concretely, if the prophet saved a soul, the one who has helped the prophet to have the mean, also share in the reward of saving a soul.
(3) Jesus identifies himself with a poor man: Lastly, Jesus abbreviates the Christian basic charity as follows: “And whoever gives to one of these little ones even a cup of water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he shall not lose his reward.” We cannot do anything for God because He has everything; but He counts all things which we do for others who are in need as to do for Himself. In chapter 25 of Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus explained this meaning in the clearest way.
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– We should learn the ancient hospitality to welcome and to care carefully for all visitors who stop and stay in our house. Don’t let anybody who visited us once and never come back us the second time.
– Christ died for us and went before us to prepare for us a place in His Father’s house, and will return to take us so that wherever He is, we shall be with him. We should return His love and works deservedly by living a holy life and loving all people.
– Whatever we do for others, God counts as we do for Him. We should open our mind and hands to help and to sacrifice for others. Let do these with a great and true love.