July 2, 2023 — Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
2 KGS 4:8-11, 14-16A; PS 89:2-3, 16-19; ROM 6:3-4, 8-11; MT 10:37-42
Today’s readings take us back to some basics of stewardship living. The First Reading shows us the necessity and power of hospitality. The Second Reading reminds us what it is that makes us disciples and Christian stewards in the first place (hint: it’s our Baptism). Finally, in today’s Gospel, Christ teaches us how to live daily life as His stewards.
Our First Reading, from 2 Kings, tells the story of a woman who showed loving hospitality to a visitor, inviting him to dinner with her family and arranging a room for him in their home so that he would have a comfortable place to stay during his travels through her town. She reached out to the man in a simple and practical manner to make him feel welcome. That is the essence of Christian hospitality. As it turns out, this man was none other than the prophet Elisha. He rewarded her kindness by interceding with God to obtain for her the miracle of a baby boy after long years of infertility.
In our Second Reading, from the Letter to the Romans, St. Paul reminds us of the power of our Baptism and how it is that this sacrament makes us disciples and therefore stewards. He says that through Baptism “into Christ Jesus” we were both buried with Christ and now are alive in Christ. We are literally new creations, marked for all eternity as one of His own. What does that mean for us here and now? St. Paul tells us very clearly: “You too must think of yourselves as dead to sin and living for God in Christ Jesus.” We must live for Christ! Nothing less will do.
Our Lord Himself proclaims this same instruction in a rather shocking way in our Gospel passage from Matthew: “Whoever loves father or mother… son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” And, “Whoever finds his life [by living for oneself] will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” How can all all-loving Lord say such things? Precisely because He is the source of all love — He is love incarnate. We can only love others, and even ourselves truly, if we allow ourselves to be emptied of self-love and filled with God’s love.
This is why our Lord tells us we must “lose our lives.” Putting ourselves or others — even those dearest to us — above God simply cannot give us the ultimate fulfillment and peace of soul that we all want. Only God can do that. Only loving God first and living for Christ — “losing our life” — can do that.
But how do we know if we love God more than “father or mother or son or daughter”? Jesus tells us in the next verses. And the fascinating genius of it all is that it is precisely through loving actions towards others, loving them as if they were Christ, that we demonstrate our love for Christ! “Whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink because the little one is a disciple… he will surely not lose his reward.”
So, we have come full circle to the importance of hospitality, and to putting God first in our lives because we have become disciples of Christ through our Baptism. We put God first by serving others as if we were serving Christ Himself, thus losing a self-centered life and finding our true fulfillment.