Monday, July 15, 2013
1) Opening prayer
God our Father,
your light of truth
guides us to the way of Christ.
May all who follow him
reject what is contrary to the gospel.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
2) Gospel Reading - Matthew 10,34-11,1
Jesus said to his disciples: 'Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth: it is not peace I have come to bring, but a sword. For I have come to set son against father, daughter against mother, daughter-in-law against mother-in-law; a person's enemies will be the members of his own household. '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. Anyone who does not take his cross and follow in my footsteps is not worthy of me. Anyone who finds his life will lose it; anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it. 'Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me; and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 'Anyone who welcomes a prophet because he is a prophet will have a prophet's reward; and anyone who welcomes an upright person because he is upright will have the reward of an upright person. 'If anyone gives so much as a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is a disciple, then in truth I tell you, he will most certainly not go without his reward.'
When Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples he moved on from there to teach and preach in their towns.
• In May of last year, the V Conference of Latin American Bishops, which was held in Aparecida in the north of Brazil, wrote a very important Document on the theme: Disciples and Missionaries of Jesus Christ, so that our peoples may have life”. The discourse of the Mission of chapter 10 of the Gospel of Matthew, offers much light in order to be able to carry out the mission as disciples and missionaries of Jesus Christ. The Gospel today presents to us the last part of this Discourse of the Mission.
• Matthew 10, 34-36: I have not come to bring peace to the earth but the sword. Jesus always speaks of peace (Mt 5, 9; Mk 9, 50; Lk 1, 79; 10, 5; 19, 38; 24, 36; Jn 14, 27; 16, 33; 20, 21. 26). And then, how can we understand the phrase in today’s Gospel which seems to say the contrary: “Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; no, I have not come to bring peace but the sword”. This affirmation does not mean that Jesus was in favour of division and the sword. No! Jesus does not want neither the sword (Jn 18, 11), nor division. He wants the union of all in truth (cf. Jn 17, 17-23). At that time, the announcement of the truth that He, Jesus of Nazareth, was the Messiah became a reason of great division among the Jews. In the same family or community, some were in favour and others were radically contrary. In this sense the Good News of Jesus was truly a source of division, a “sign of contradiction” (Lk 2, 34) or, as Jesus said, he was bringing the sword. In this way the other warning is understood: “I have come to set son against father, daughter against mother, daughter-in-law against mother– in-law; a person’s enemies will be the members of his own household”. In fact, that was what was happening in the families and in the communities: much division, much discussion, the consequence of the announcement of the Good News among the Jews of that time, because some accepted, others denied. Today the same thing happens. Many times, there where the Church renews itself, the appeal to the Good News becomes a ‘sign of contradiction’ and of division. Persons, who during years have lived comfortably in their routine of Christian life, do not want to allow themselves to be bothered by the ‘innovations’ of Vatican Council II. Disturbed by the changes, they used all their intelligence to find arguments in defence of their opinions and to condemn the changes considering them contrary to what they thought was the true faith.
• Matthew 10, 37: No one who prefers father or mother to me is worthy of me. Luke gives this same phrase, but much more demandino. Literally he says: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his sons and brothers, his sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple” (Lk 14, 26). How can this affirmation of Jesus be combined with the other one in which he orders to observe the fourth commandment: love and honour father and mother? (Mk 7, 10-12; Mt 19, 19). Two observations: (1) The fundamental criterion on which Jesus insists always is this one: the Good News of God should be the supreme value of our life. In our life there can be no greater value. (2) The economic and social situation at the time of Jesus was such that the families were obliged to close themselves up in themselves. They no longer had the conditions to respect the obligations of human community living together as for example: sharing, hospitality, invitation to a meal and the acceptance of the excluded. This individualistic closing up in self, caused by the national and international situation produced distortion: (1) It made life in community impossible (2) It limited the commandment “honour father and mother” exclusively to the small family nucleus and no longer to the larger family of the community (3) It prevented the full manifestation of the Good News of God, because if God is Father/Mother we are brothers and sisters of one another. And this truth should be expressed in the life of the community. A living and fraternal community is the mirror of the face of God. Human living together without community is a mirror which disfigures the face of God. In this context, the request of Jesus: “to hate father and mother means that the disciples should overcome the individualistic closing up of the small family on itself, and extend it to the community dimension. Jesus himself put into practice what he taught others. His family wanted to call him to close himself up in self. When they told him: “Look, your mother and your brothers are outside and they are looking for you”, he answered: “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” And looking at the persons around him he said: “Behold, my mother and my brothers. Anyone who does the will of God is my brother, my sister and my mother” (Mk 3, 32-35). He extends the family! This was and continues to be even today for the small family the only way to be able to keep and transmit the values in which he believes.
• Matthew 10, 38-39: The demands of the mission of the disciples. In these two verses, Jesus gives important and demanding advice: (a) To take up the cross and follow Jesus: Anyone who does not take his cross and follow in my footsteps is not worthy of me. In order to perceive all the significance and important of this first advice it is well to keep in mind the witness of Saint Paul: “But as for me, it is not of the question that I should boast at all, except of the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom the world has been crucified to me and I to the world” (Ga 6, 14). To carry the cross presupposes, even now, a radical drawing away from the iniquitous system which reigns in the world. (b) To have the courage to give one’s life: “Anyone who finds his life will lose it; anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it”. Only the one, who in life has been capable of giving himself totally to others, will feel fulfilled. This second advice confirms the deepest human experience; the source of life is in the gift of life. Giving one receives. If the wheat grain does not die … (Jn 12, 24).
• Matthew 10, 40: The identification of the disciple with Jesus and with God himself. This human experience of donation and of the gift receives here a clarification, a deepening:”Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me: and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.” In the total gift of self, the disciple identifies himself with Jesus; there the encounter with God takes place, and God allows himself to be found by the one who seeks him.
• Matthew 10, 41-42: the reward of the prophet, of the just and of the disciple. The discourse of the Mission ends with one phrase on reward: “Anyone who welcomes a prophet because he is a prophet will have a prophet’s reward; and anyone who welcomes an upright person because he is upright will have the reward of an upright person If anyone gives so much as a cup of cold water to one of these little ones, because he is a disciple, then in truth I tell you, he will most certainly not go without reward”. In this phrase the sequence is very meaningful: the prophet is recognized because of his mission as one sent by God. The upright person is recognized by his behaviour, by his perfect way of observing the law of God. The disciple is recognized by no quality or mission, but simply by his social condition of being least among the people. The Kingdom is not made of great things. It is like a very big house which is constructed with small bricks. Anyone who despises the brick will have great difficulty in constructing the house. Even a glass of water serves as a brick for the construction of the Kingdom.
• Matthew 11, 1: The end of the Discourse of the Mission. The end of the Discourse of the Mission. When Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples he moved from there to teach and preach in their towns. Now Jesus leaves to put into practice what he has taught. We will see this in the next chapters 11 and 12 of the Gospel of Matthew.
4) Personal questions
• To lose life in order to gain life. Have you had some experience of having felt rewarded for an act of donation or gratuity for others?
• He who welcomes you welcomes me, and who welcomes me, welcomes the One who sent me. Stop and think what Jesus says here: He and God himself identify themselves with you.
5) Concluding Prayer
How blessed are those who live in your house;
they shall praise you continually. Pause
Blessed those who find their strength in you,
whose hearts are set on pilgrimage. (Ps 84,4-5)