|by Angela Lambert|
July 2nd, 2017; 13th Sunday Ordinary Time
Gospel of Matthew 10:37-42
Jesus said to his apostles: “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 his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. “Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me. Whoever receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man will receive a righteous man’s reward. And whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink because the little one is a disciple—amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward.”
I would think of this passage often when my kids were little. After finally getting them tucked into bed, just as I would sit down to finally relax, I would hear a little voice call out “Mooooooooom. I’m thirsty.” Fighting the frustration in my thoughts and body, I would remind myself, “And whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink…”
Following Christ means loving Him above all things, including all people, and most importantly above ourselves. If He were only a man this directive would be ridiculous and arrogant. Jesus gives this command because He is God. St. Augustine famously wrote:
|“There can only be two basic loves… the love of God unto the forgetfulness of self, or the love of self unto the forgetfulness and denial of God.”|
As much as we may try to avoid this decision, the limits imposed on us by time and space force a choice. Sometimes it means a clear fork in the road, while at other times it may mean small daily sacrifices.
Discipleship applies to every vocation – priest, religious, married, and single. Priests and religious give a clear witness of total gift of self to God. Their remarkable vows and their counter-cultural lives attest to their faith in eternal life as they sacrifice worldly goods for heavenly. Just this week, a friend of mine who’s a nun, came by with three sisters to take some furniture I was giving away. That same day two workmen were at the house working on taping and mudding the basement that’s being finished. As they came upstairs to take a break, they saw three nuns in full habit and me carrying a large bookshelf out of the house. Imagine their surprise! One offered to help when he saw us struggle to lift it to the truck. Later one of the sisters asked him to help us tie down the furniture and he generously assisted. I have no doubts that will be a sight they remember forever, and a story they will tell for at least the next week.
Married and single persons blend in to society more as even secular persons marry or remain single. However, it doesn’t take long for Christians to stand out even in these vocations. The disciple of Christ remains faithful to marriage vows even when the culture dismisses them. Catholic families notoriously stand out as they tend to (though are not required to) exceed the usual one girl and one boy trend. Every mother I know who has more than three kids, has recounted to me comments made to them about the number of children they have. These comments come from family members as well as complete strangers in places as random as the grocery store. Openness to life necessitates losing your “life” to receive it back from Christ. It affects your body, your sleep, your emotions, your free time, your career choices, your travel, your finances, and so on. Once when I was congratulating a couple I know who were pregnant with their sixth child, the father conveyed his struggle that now they would have to get a full size van. Many of lamented the min-van transition, but the large 12 passenger van step is even harder. That is sacrifice. However, any mother or father will tell you, when you hold that baby in your arms you realize it’s completely worth it.
Finally, single persons stand out in their discipleship too. the Christian who lives chastely and temperately, puts others before themselves, and makes decisions prayerfully, shines a bright light in a culture that glamorizes promiscuity, partying, and self-advancement. They use their freedom to give of their time generously rather than selfishly. A single woman I know put it this way to me – she said that she was totally free for the Lord to call at any moment. Whereas others served God through their obligations to their family or religious order, she said, God needs some people who can be available any time anywhere. I hadn’t thought of that before she shared that insight with me. Of course she had to go to work and take care of her home, but she recognized that she had tremendously more “free” time and flexibility than the other vocations and intentionally chose to consecrate that time and freedom to God.
Discipleship comes at a cost, but Jesus promises it to be an investment. Things of this world will always be insecure. Jobs can be lost, stock markets dive, beauty and health get marred by illness, and so on. Every investment we make in the Lord however will merit glory in heaven forever. When I drag my tired body off the couch to give my thirsty daughter a cup of water at night, it remains treasured by God forever along with every sacrifice of love that we make.
We can’t be in two places at once and there will always be only 24 hours in a day. We have to make choices. Jesus encourages us to be strong against temptations no matter where, or from whom, they come. He also sent the Holy Spirit to provide the gifts of fortitude and counsel we will need to make those decisions prayerfully and follow through on them courageously. He also gave us the gift of the Church to guide us and inspire us.
Jesus pointed out that you can tell a tree by it’s fruits. Even though self-love appears prudent, in our culture it has produced the highest levels of depression, “anger issues”, and suicide in history. Love of God above all things is only prudent from an eternal perspective, it requires faith. However it has produced thousands upon thousands of saints, the first mark of which is Joy.
- When have you chosen yourself over God? How did you rationalize it? How did you feel afterward?
- When have you chosen God over yourself? How did God provide for you in that decision and bless you afterward?
- Reflect on Jesus’ paradoxical words that we find ourselves in losing ourselves. Pope St. John Paul II expressed the same idea saying that we find self-fulfillment through self-gift. Others have expressed this phenomenon by saying that when they volunteered somewhere, they received more than they gave.
- Who has been a witness to you by their Christian discipleship? What stuck out to you about them?
- In what ways do you witness to Christ in your life? What makes it difficult? What makes it rewarding?
- How can you practice Works of Mercy in your everyday life and your vocation.
Make a Resolution (Practical Application):
- Pray for an increase in the Gifts of the Holy Spirit (Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Knowledge, Fortitude, Piety, and Fear of the Lord), and the grace needed to follow Christ.
- Intentionally practice one Works of Mercy each day this week.
~ Written by Angela Lambert © 2017
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