Lector's Notes

by Gregory Warnusz

First Reading

This reading is a simple story. When proclaimed to the congregation, it should sound like a story. The elements of the story are quite ordinary: a frequent traveler, a kind but childless couple, hospitality, promise and hope. Tell it like you’d tell the story of how you met your spouse, or how you’d tell a serious story to a child.

Second Reading

The letter to the Romans is full of vivid contrasts, and these paragraphs have that character in spades.

  • death versus life (several times)
  • old (implied) versus new
  • sin versus God

Vary your pitch as you proclaim the contrasting elements. The congregation should hear the contrasts in your voice. If they’re to grasp the contrasts intellectually, they need this help from you.

Introductions

by Gregory Warnusz

First Reading

The woman in this story starts out just being hospitable. Then she has spiritual insight, and recognizes a prophet. Then she enjoys the promise of a great gift.

Second Reading

The Bible has much to say about baptism, and what happens to us when we are baptized. Saint Paul gives the strongest interpretation possible.

Gospel

In a world where family relationships trumped everything else, Jesus proposes a shocking alternative.

VIDEO SERIES

Study of the Catechism of the Catholic Church

Video Lessons on the “four pillars” of the Catechism

MORE RESOURCES


1ST READINGPSALM2ND READINGGOSPELLIFE MESSAGEFAITH SHARINGVOICESCATECHISM

2 Kings 4:8-11, 14-16a

Gerbrand van den Eeckhout, Elisha and the Shunammite woman, 1649
Fr. Eamon Tobin's Reflection

A woman’s hospitality is rewarded

FIRST READING—This reading is part of a series of stories about the prophet Elisha. The reason for its choice is clearly the reference in the Gospel that those who welcome a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward. The unnamed woman is described as a “woman of influence.” She is a woman of means able to offer the prophet, Elisha, room and board on a regular basis. It seems that the prophet has a special place in the home and heart of this woman. The life of a traveling prophet, like that of traveling business people, could be lonely. The prophet most likely looks forward to his visits with the woman who seems to love having him. The woman’s hospitality is rewarded by the promise of a son that she and her husband have been longing for.

©2020 Fr. Eamon Tobin. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.
Sr. Patricia Stevenson's Reflection

The whole story of Elisha and the woman

FIRST READING—The passage from second Kings is a wonderful story. It is told in verses 8-37. Our reading has been truncated but it is necessary to read the whole story to get the beauty of the narrative and to see the connection with the Gospel. It touches on two points. The first is that those who receive the agent of God are offering hospitality to God. The second is that it is a death and resurrection story.

Elisha, the disciple of Elijah, formed a relationship with a family who not only welcomed him on this travels but also created a little personal retreat for the man of God. As a thank you for such generosity, in the name of God Elisha announced that she would bear a son. When the boy reached the age of being able to accompany his father to work he took sick and died. This is the greatest challenge to the faith of parents. The mother set out on an arduous journey to visit the prophet. She asked for her son’s life. In a gesture reminiscent of Mary in the garden she clung to Elisha vowing not to let go until her son was restored to her. Elisha responded and the son who was dead was restored to life.

Not only do we have a story of great faith but we have echoes of two other mothers, the widow of Naim and Mary of Nazareth and the sisters of Lazarus. There is also an echo of the return of the wandering son in the father’s words to the brother, “Rejoice you brother who was dead has come back to life again.”

All telling of scripture draws threads that bring other stories and each biblical narrative contributes to the up-building of our own faith in our destiny.

©2005 Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Sacred Heart. Used with permission.
Fr. Clement Thibodeau's Reflection

Elisha encounters the Shunammite woman

FIRST READING—Our first reading consists of a few verses taken from the story of the first encounter between the prophet Elisha and the Shunammite woman. It parallels the story of the encounter of the prophet Elijah and the widow of Zarephath in 1 Kings 17, yet has some interesting differences. In that story, Elijah meets the widow during a great famine. She is about to prepare one last meal with the little bit of food she has left for herself and her son. Elijah calls on her to trust God by making Elijah a cake as well. As a result of her faith, she, her son and Elijah have food to eat during the famine. However, the widow’s son becomes ill and dies. The widow, whose faith is tested, asks Elijah if he has come to expose her guilt. Elijah prays, and the boy is restored to life.

The Shunammite woman, on the other hand, is described as “a woman of influence.”There is no famine in the land, and she is relatively wealthy. She welcomes Elisha into her home and prepares for him a room where he can stay whenever he is in the area. Elisha, seeking to bless the woman for her hospitality, asks her if he can do anything for her. She replies that she has her extended family and therefore needs nothing more from Elishaor, by extension, from God. Elisha persists, and seeing that she is childless, tells her that she will have a son. Years later, the son becomes very ill and dies. The woman’s faith is tested, but she sends for Elisha. Elisha prays, and the son is restored to life.

©2020 Father Clement D. Thibodeau. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.
Sr. Mary McGlone's Reflection

Good works bring their own reward

FIRST READING—This story about Elisha is the sort that you tell the children to assure them that good works bring their own reward. It’s a great beginning, but the story gets better as it goes along. This incident is part of the tradition about Elisha the wonder-worker. In the fourth chapter of 2 Kings, Elisha helps a widow whose sons are about to be sold into slavery. He tells her to take the only jug of oil she has and to borrow every container she can from her neighbors. Then, behind closed doors, she pours from her little jug and fills all the vessels the neighborhood could provide, giving her enough to pay the debts and survive with her children.

In today’s passage, we hear of a wealthy and generous woman who not only feeds the prophet when he comes through her town, but even builds an addition to her house for him. She asks for nothing in return, but when Elisha’s servant tells him that the woman is married to an old man and has no child, Elisha promises she will bear a son within the year.

Like Sarah when she heard the angel tell Abraham that they would have a son, the woman asked Elisha not to delude her. While we don’t hear his answer, we are told that she had her son. Then, as if God were a false-hearted giver, the boy, scarcely grown, dies while out in the field with his father. With that Elisha performed a greater miracle, restoring the child to life by sharing his own warmth and breath with him. The other two stories in the chapter tell how Elisha was able to make an antidote to a poisoned stew.

All told, this entire chapter describes the life-giving work of a prophet. The message that those who receive a prophet become identified with him is subtle, but it is there in each story. While we often see the role of the prophet as denouncing and the fate of the prophet as rejection, this chapter reminds us that the ultimate goal of the prophet is to represent the God who desires that all people enjoy life to the full.

©2017 National Catholic Reporter. All Rights Reserved. Sr. Mary McGlone  is a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet. Her 2020 Reflections can be read at National Catholic Reporter website.

Further Study

Verse by verse Commentary

Second Kings deals mainly with the wars between Judah and Israel and the attacks on them from outside. The situation became even more critical when the Assyrians invaded, first in the 9th century B.C. and more vigorously in the 8th. Samaria, the capital of the Northern Kingdom (Israel), fell in 721, and later Judah became an Assyrian vassal.

After the assumption of Elijah on Mount Carmel (2 Kings 2:11) Elisha the prophet takes over the role of promoting the covenant.

Our reading today is the second of a complex of ten stories about Elisha. These stories alternate between the prophet’s dealings with his own people and his interactions with Gentiles. Each of the stories evidences such hallmarks of “legend” as the tendency to avoid naming characters (other than Elisha himself) and the intention of evoking wonderment at the hero’s powers. I am inclined to believe that the stories are not Alegends@ in the sense that they are not real, but in fact are true depictions of events in Elisha’s life. After all, he was a prophet of God Most High and what he did in God’s name would in fact evoke wonderment in the eyes of those who came in contact with him. I am reminded of a statement in Peter Kreeft’s book The God Who Loves You: “Prophets are like fingers, not faces. We are not meant to look at them but to the reality to which they point.”

8 One day Elisha came to Shunem,

Shunem is located about 30 miles northeast of Samaria.

14 Later Elisha asked, “Can something be done for her?” “Yes!” Gehazi answered. “She has no son, and her husband is getting on in years.”

It was regarded as failure if no son was produced to inherit the estate. Gehazi, a name which means “valley of vision,” was Elilsha’s servant.

15 “Call her,” said Elisha. When she had been called, and stood at the door, 16 Elisha promised, “This time next year you will be fondling a baby son.”

Although our reading doesn’t mention it, she doubted Elisha but by the same time the following year she had a son.

Source: Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA

The Shunammite woman and Elisha’s blessing

FIRST READING—In the First Reading, a woman generously receives God’s prophet Elisha into her home because she tells her husband, “I know that he is a holy man of God.” Not only does Elisha’s presence in her home enrich her life, but Elisha rewards her generosity by his petition to the Lord bless his barren benefactress with a child.

Background to Elisha

The prophet Elisha was the successor of his mentor, the prophet Elijah.  Just before he witnessed Elijah’s assumption into Heaven, Elisha petitioned him to receive “a double portion of his spirit” (2 Kng 2:9-14).  God granted the petition, and Elisha performed twice as many miracles as his predecessor.

The Biblical account reveals that Elisha traveled a great deal between Mt. Carmel, the capital of Samaria, and the communities of the prophets in Gilgal, Bethel, and Jericho.  He had a servant who traveled with him named Gehazi.  Shunem was a town in the tribal lands of Issachar in the Jezreel Valley (Josh 19:18).

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Background to the Shunammite Woman

The Shunammite woman was wealthy; her husband was a landowner with servants. Like the poor Gentile woman of Zarephath who shared her food and her home with the prophet Elijah, this woman generously offered Elisha her hospitality and then decided to provide him with a room of his own in her house. These women are only two of many women in salvation history who opened their homes and gave their hospitality to God’s representatives and the people of His faith community.

The woman had no son, and her elderly husband was unlikely to father a child. Women depended on adult sons to provide for them when they were widowed.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Miraculous Births in the Bible

This passage is one of seven stories of miraculous births in the Bible in addition to the birth of Jesus (the eighth miraculous birth):

  1. In the story of Abraham and Sarah, they were both elderly, and Sarah was barren, yet God made Sarah fertile, and she bore a son in their old age.  God told them to name the child Isaac (Gen 18:9-11; 21:1-3).
  2. Rebekah was barren until Isaac prayed for her, and God gave them twin sons who they named Esau and Jacob (Gen 25:20-24).
  3. Rachel was barren until God gave her a son, and she named him Joseph (30:22-24).
  4. Manoah’s wife was barren, but God answered her prayer and gave her a child who became the mighty warrior Samson (Judg 13:2-7, 24).
  5. Hannah was barren, but God heard her prayer and gave her a child who became the prophet Samuel (1 Sam 1:1-2, 10-11, 20).
  6. Elisha petitioned God for the birth of a son for his benefactress, the barren Shunammite woman (2 Kng 4:14-17).
  7. Zechariah and Elizabeth were elderly when God made Elizabeth fertile, and she gave birth to John the Baptist (Lk 1:1-25, 57-58).
Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Five Annunciation Stories in the Bible

There are only five annunciation stories in the Bible in which a woman received a direct message of a future birth by an agent of God:

  1. Sarah, the mother of Isaac
  2. Manoah’s wife who became the mother of the prophet Samuel
  3. The Shunammite woman
  4. The Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus
  5. Elisabeth, the mother of John the Baptist

There are three differences between Elisha’s annunciation story and the gift of a child to the other barren women or the other annunciation stories in the Bible:

  1. All the other stories of the gift of children to barren women originate from the word of God, but this one is from the prophet’s initiative as recompense for the woman’s kindness to him.
  2. God’s agent provided a name for the future sons in the other stories but not in this one.
  3. All the other stories lead to the birth of someone destined to play a significant role in salvation history.  However, there is no record that this unnamed child played any significant role in the Biblical narrative.

God is gracious to those who help, even in the smallest ways, to move forward His divine plan or render aid to His emissaries (see the Gospel reading).  The inspired writer of the Letter to the Hebrews (believed by many to be St. Paul) warns us to be kind and generous to those in need because we may be unaware that we are entertaining angels (Heb 13:2).

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.

Psalm 89:2-3, 16-17, 18-19

Fr. Eamon Tobin's Reflection

For ever I will sing the goodness of the Lord

RESPONSORIAL PSALM—These verses reflect the couple’s joy on hearing that they will be blessed with a son.

©2020 Fr. Eamon Tobin. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.
Fr. Clement Thibodeau's Reflection

What has happened to the Lord’s promises of old?

RESPONSORIAL PSALM—This psalm is an appropriate reflection on our first reading. It reflects the point of view of an unnamed king who is a descendant of David. It begins as a great hymn of praise and thanksgiving to God for all that God has done for Israel, particularly in making a covenant with Israel and then with King David and David’s descendants. God promises to never forsake David’s dynasty. Then the psalm becomes lamentation. This king is encountering defeat, disaster, insult and shame. He wonders where God’s promises have gone. Yet,he ends his pslam with an expression of praise: “Blessed be the Lord forever! Amen, amen!”He keeps faith that, in spite of all appearances to the contrary, God will fulfill His promises.

©2020 Father Clement D. Thibodeau. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.

Further Study

The faithfulness of God’s promises

PSALM—In the Responsorial Psalm, the psalmist proclaims God’s steadfast covenant love for His people and His faithfulness to the promises He makes to them. He describes God’s protection of His people and their king, who is God’s chosen representative to the covenant people. Chief among the kings of Israel was David, the divinely anointed shepherd-king with whom God made an eternal covenant. In Jesus of Nazareth, Son of God and Son of David, God fulfills the promises of the everlasting Davidic covenant. The resurrected Jesus Christ is the eternal King of God’s New Covenant people.

Psalm as quoted in New Testament

The Gospel of John quoted from this psalm when Jesus cleansed the Jerusalem Temple of profane merchants selling animals and exchanging coinage (Jn 2:13-17).  Jesus’ disciples recalled the verse from the Greek translation of Psalm 60:10, zeal for your house will consume me in John 2:17.

In Romans 15:3, St. Paul quotes the last words of verse 9 and attributes them to the suffering of Jesus in His Passion that Christians should unite to their own sufferings: For Christ did not please himself; but as it is written, “The insults of those who insult you will fall upon me.”

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
A Lament over God's Unfulfilled Promises

Psalm 89 is a lament over God’s as yet unfulfilled covenant promises to David.  Verse 2-3 mentions God’s promise that David’s dynasty is to be as long-lasting as the heavens, a statement of both divine love and loyalty to the Davidic dynasty and throne (see verses 4-5 not in our reading).  In the other verses in our reading, the psalmist proclaims God’s steadfast love for His people and His faithfulness to His promises to them.  He describes God’s protection of His people and Israel’s king, who is God’s chosen civil representative to the covenant people.

The events in the Gospels show that God kept His promise by sending God the Son to be born into the house (family) of David to which both Joseph and Mary belonged (Mt 1:1, 20; Lk 1:32-33), and gave Him an eternal kingship.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
The Davidic Covenant

Chief among the kings of Israel was David, the divinely anointed shepherd-king with whom God made an eternal covenant (1 Sam 12-13; 2 Sam 7:11b-16, 29; 23:5; 1 Kng 2:4; 2 Chr 13:5; Sir 45:25).  Jesus of Nazareth, Son of God and Son of David fulfills the promises of the eternal Davidic covenant (2 Sam 7:11b-16; 23:5; 2 Chron 13:5; Sir 45:25).  The resurrected Jesus Christ is the eternal King of God’s New Covenant Kingdom of the Universal Church on earth and in Heaven.  That God sent His Son to redeem His covenant people and inaugurate a New Covenant through the Davidic Redeemer-Messiah, as foretold by His prophets (i.e., Jer 31:31-34), is proof of His promise to remain faithful to His covenants and show love to those who love Him and observe His commandments (Dt 7:9; Neh 1:5; Dan 9:4).

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.

Romans 6:3-4, 8-11

Baptism at St. Isidore Church, Macomb, MI
Fr. Eamon Tobin's Reflection

The “new life” given at Baptism

SECOND READING—In the Second Reading, Christ’s representative, St. Paul, tells us how Christians receive an infusion of divine grace through the Sacrament of Baptism. The regenerative waters of baptism yield a supernatural transformation and rebirth. Baptism not only frees us from slavery to sin but allows us to begin a new life in which we are no longer a child of Adam but become a child of God. This “new life” is not merely symbolic. Paul writes that in Christian Baptism, our old self dies with the crucified Christ, and in our new life, God calls us to live not only in freedom from “sin” but freedom from “self.” The sinner is immersed in water and is thus “buried” with Christ with whom the Christian is also raised up through the water to a resurrection as a new creation, infused with “divine life” as a member of God’s holy covenant family.

©2020 Fr. Eamon Tobin. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.
Sr. Patricia Stevenson's Reflection

God’s grace covers us like a mantle

SECOND READING—Paul encourages us in our labors by reminding us of the enormous gift of God’s grace which covers us like a mantle. Even our sins are a source of opportunity for grace. We are baptized into the death and resurrection of Christ. It raised us to a new life. Our symbolic death and resurrection has freed us from the mesh of sin. Our sins, setbacks, temporary lapses have no power over us. We have difficulty remembering this at times of darkness. As Christians we have been encouraged by the countless men and women and also children who have lived life in the light of this faith in a God who is true to his Word.

©2005 Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Sacred Heart. Used with permission.
Fr. Clement Thibodeau's Reflection

Through Baptism, Christ’s death becomes Our Own

SECOND READING—In this section of Romans, Paul has been developing a theology of sin and salvation. All of humanity, he insists, has become captives of sin. But where sin has abounded, the grace of God in Christ Jesus has all the more abounded, and has overcome sin. Here, Paul begins to deal with an objection born from humanity’s seemingly infinite talent for self-justification. If sin has made grace abound, some asked, then why not sin all the more so that grace would be even more available to us? (Romans 6:1) Paul argues that this question is logically flawed because it contains a gross misunderstanding of how God has overcome sin in Christ and of how people share in that victory. Christ’s death has broken the power of sin; his resurrection has broken the power of death. Through baptism, we participate in Christ’s death. Christ’s victory over sin becomes our own. This means that, through baptism, we Christians have truly died to sin and, therefore, are no longer under its power.Thus, we are given the grace to not merely avoid sin but to live a life fully in accord with God’s will. Moreover, because we also share inthe promise given us through Christ’s resurrection, we need not fear sin or death. In Christ,we are dead to sin and alive for God. Why, then, would anyone want to sin any longer?

©2020 Father Clement D. Thibodeau. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.
Sr. Mary McGlone's Reflection

Why be Baptized?

SECOND READING—With this selection from Romans, Paul calls us to consider what difference it makes that we are baptized Christians. Most of us who were baptized at birth rarely think about our baptism except during the Easter Vigil or other occasions when we renew our baptismal promises. In that renewal we reject Satan and all his works and declare our belief in the triune God, the church, forgiveness and life everlasting. It’s a pretty complete review of our faith life, but it is usually done so quickly and simply that we take little note. As we hear today’s selection from Romans we might imagine Paul as a charismatic, passionate preacher asking us questions and elaborating on their implications.

“Are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?” From the very beginning Paul is trying to wake us up: “Are you unaware? Are you paying attention? Have you thought seriously about this?”

When Paul says we were baptized into the death of Christ, he’s reflecting his Jewish background. He’s talking as someone who has participated in Passover celebrations through which he united himself with the ancestors whom God led out of the slavery of Egypt. This is a question of identity. In Paul’s thinking, being baptized is the greatest change a person can undergo. It isn’t like joining a group or even the transformation of growing up. If he were speaking today he would probably say that it is more radical than plastic surgery or even sexual reassignment surgery. It’s the opposite of a witness protection program. Baptism permeates and publicly transforms a person’s entire identity.

All of us are born into what Paul refers to as the realm of death: existence circumscribed by mortality and dominated by the forms sin takes in a particular age or society. In Chapter one of this letter, Paul lamented the pervasiveness of “every form of wickedness,” a list that included degrading passions, idolatry, greed, malice, murder, scandalmongering, haughtiness and rebellion. Paul’s list referred to his own time and culture. Today’s list would also include elitism, materialism, racism, human trafficking, rejection of people who are “different,” along with 21st century expressions of violence — a list capable of making all of us uncomfortable, maybe even angry and defensive.

When Paul talks about having died to sin and sharing Christ’s victory over death he’s saying that those realities need not determine us any longer. None of us chose to be born in a particular epoch, to be formed by a nation, language, gender, etc. But, the reality is that the society that surrounds us has both sinful and graced dimensions; this society forms us in its image from the moment of our birth. How we respond determines who we are and who we become.

Paul firmly believes that those who are baptized into Christ are given the grace to be free from sin and social conditioning. The freedom of the children of God is a grace and a task. Thus, Paul stands before us today and, with a riveting gaze and a penetrating voice, he asks: “Are you unaware?”

©2017 National Catholic Reporter. All Rights Reserved. Sr. Mary McGlone  is a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet. Her 2020 Reflections can be read at National Catholic Reporter website.

Further Study

Verse by verse Commentary

Last week in our second reading we discussed three ages: Adam to Moses which is the natural period represented by the fallen, unhappy family; Moses to Christ which is the legal period in which one nation is the example; and from Christ onward which is the period of international blessing where all nations are blessed and freed from the Law through the grace of Christ.

From Adam to Moses, the source of “death” was Adam’s sin. Human beings did, of course, commit evil, but they were not charged with it (sin is not taken into account where there is no Law). From Moses to Christ, the Law was added and human sin was understood as a transgression of it so now, in addition to Adam’s sin, individual transgressions are also taken into account because the Law existed. In the third period, that of Christ, there is freedom from the Law through the grace of Christ. This third period is described more fully beginning in Romans 10:4. In our reading today, Saint Paul describes the new life, the life in Christ, which we receive in baptism. To better understand the context, we will begin to read in Romans 5:20 and proceed through 6:14 but confine our study to the reading itself.

20 The law entered in so that transgression might increase but, where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through justification for eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. 6:1 What then shall we say? Shall we persist in sin that grace may abound? Of course not! 2 How can we who died to sin yet live in it? 3 Or are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?

Roman Christians, instructed in the apostolic catechesis, should be well aware of the effects of baptism. The rite of Christian initiation does not merely identify the Christian with the dying Christ who has won victory over sin, but introduces him into the very act by which that victory was won.

“Paul says this so that we might know that once we have been baptized we should no longer sin, since when we are baptized we die with Christ. This is what it means to be baptized into His death. For there all our sins die, so that, renewed by the death we have cast off, we might be seen to rise as those who have been born again to new life, so that just as Christ died to sin and rose again, so through baptism we might also have the hope of resurrection. Therefore, baptism is the death of sin so that a new birth might follow, which, although the body remains, nevertheless renews us in our soul and buries all our old evil deeds.” [The Ambrosiaster (between A.D. 366-384), Commentaries on Thirteen Pauline Epistles Romans 6:3]

4 We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death,

The baptismal rite represents the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ; the convert experiences this by descending into the baptismal pool, being submerged, and emerging to a new life which is symbolized by the white garment.

so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father,

The efficiency of the resurrection is ascribed to the Father who gives life to the dead (Romans 4:17).

we too might live in newness of life.

Baptism brings about an identification of the Christian with the glorified Christ, enabling him or her to live actually with the life of Christ Himself; a new creation is involved.

5 For if we have grown into union with him through a death like his, we shall also be united with him in the resurrection. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him, so that our sinful body might be done away with, that we might no longer be in slavery to sin. 7 For a dead person has been absolved from sin. 8 If, then, we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him.

The new life of the Christian is not the object of sensible perception or immediate consciousness; it is perceived only with the eyes of faith.

9 We know that Christ, raised from the dead, dies no more; death no longer has power over him.

The resurrection of Christ has brought the Christian into the age of glory, freed from the wages of death and sin. Christ was raised from the dead not merely to publicize His good news or to confirm His messianic character, but to introduce human beings into a new mode of life and give them a new principle of vital activity, the Holy Spirit.

“Paul is saying that if Christ had died for sinners two or three times, there would be no danger in going back to our old sinful ways. But as He only died once, we who have been buried and risen again with him will not die to sin again. There will be no second baptism, no second death of Christ. Therefore we must be careful to stay alive.” [Diodore of Tarsus (ca. A.D. 373), Pauline Commentary From the Greek Church]

10 As to his death, he died to sin once and for all; as to his life, he lives for God.

His death was a unique event, never to be repeated. Through it He entered into His glory where time has no dominion. He is continually offering Himself to the Father in our behalf (Revelation 5:6) so that all generations are freed.

11 Consequently, you too must think of yourselves as (being) dead to sin and living for God in Christ Jesus.

The Christian was united with Christ at baptism and must now live the life of Christ because sin causes a rupture in that union.

Source: Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA

The regeneration of Baptism

SECOND READING—In the Second Reading, Christ’s representative, St. Paul, tells us how Christians receive an infusion of divine grace through the Sacrament of Baptism. The regenerative waters of baptism yield a supernatural transformation and rebirth. Baptism not only frees us from slavery to sin but allows us to begin a new life in which we are no longer a child of Adam but become a child of God. This “new life” is not merely symbolic. Paul writes that in Christian Baptism, our old self dies with the crucified Christ, and in our new life, God calls us to live not only in freedom from “sin” but freedom from “self.” The sinner is immersed in water and is thus “buried” with Christ with whom the Christian is also raised up through the water to a resurrection as a new creation, infused with “divine life” as a member of God’s holy covenant family.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Origin of sin and death

In Romans 5:12-21, Paul addresses the origin of sin and death and how the first man’s (Adam) sin affected all humanity.  Adam is our human father, and because of his sin of rebellion against God, we inherited from him both physical and spiritual death just as we inherit our other genes and traits of human inheritance.  Through our first parents, we are born physically alive but spiritually dead.  It is spiritual death that infects us with sin and causes the life-long struggle to resist Satan and the temptation to sin.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
The Supernatural Events that Take Place in Baptism

Our immersion in the Baptism of Christ goes far beyond ritual symbolism.  When we receive the Sacrament of Baptism, a supernatural sequence of events take place that images the life of Christ (see Colossians 2:9-14 and John 3:3-8; CCC# 628; 977-978):

  1. In the Sacrament of Baptism, we die to sin, and therefore blameworthiness dies.  We die to sin by renouncing sin and its power over us and are free of its hold on our lives.  We image Christ in our baptismal death to sin just as He died to free us from sin on the Cross.
  2. We are born “again” (or “from above” ); the Hebrew word onothan can mean “again” or “from above” (see John 3:3, 5).  Our hearts are supernaturally “circumcised,” and we are “resurrected” out of the baptismal waters to a new life.  We are no longer a child in the fallen family of Adam.  We become children in the family of God, imaging Christ’s Resurrection from the tomb and fulfilling God’s promise to make all things new through the New Covenant in Christ.  In Revelation 21:5-7, the resurrected and enthroned Christ told St. John: “Look, I am making the whole of creation new.  Write this, What I am saying is trustworthy and will come true.”  Then he said to me, “It has already happened.  I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End.  I will give water from the well of life free to anybody who is thirsty, and I will be his God, and he will be my son.”
  3. Baptism imparts the life of Christ’s grace and, therefore, original sin and all personal sins are forgiven through the cleansing waters of baptism in the regeneration and infusion of divine life by the power of God the Holy Spirit.
Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
The Teaching of St. Ambrose

In his instructions to the newly baptized, St. Ambrose taught, “The Lord who wanted his benefactions to endure, the serpent’s plans to be turned to naught, and the harm done to be put right, delivered a sentence on mankind: ‘You are dust, and to dust you shall return’ (Genesis 3:19), and made man subject to death.”  Then, St. Ambrose continued, God in His mercy provided a remedy: “The remedy was given him: man would die and rise again… You ask me how?” Answering his own question St. Ambrose informed the newly baptized, “Pay attention!  So that in this world too the devil’s snare would be broken, a rite was instituted whereby man would die, being alive, and rise again, being alive…  Through immersion in water the sentence is blotted out: ‘You are dust and to dust you shall return'” (St. Ambrose, De Sacramentis, II,6).

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Baptism as a Participation in Christ's Saving Mission

In his letters, Paul teaches the Sacrament of Baptism is not merely a symbolic death and rebirth.  Baptism is a genuine participation in Christ’s saving mission of death, burial, and resurrection as figured in water immersion (death and burial), and coming “up” out of the water (resurrection).  And, it is necessary for our salvation (Mk 16:16; CCC 183, 1253; 1256, 1257).  The old Law served as a tutor or a guardian (CCC# 1963) to prepare God’s covenant people for rebirth into the family of God as the true spiritual heirs of Abraham and members of the One Body in Christ, the New Covenant Church (see Gal 3:25-28; Col 2:9-14;1 Cor 12:12-13; Eph 4:4-6).

The result is that we should live in “newness of life,” and the “self” that belonged to sin no longer lives since Christ has freed us from the power of sin over us.  The baptized believer is a new creation in Christ, as Paul writes in Colossians 3:10, You have stripped off of your old behavior with your old self, and you have put on a new self which will progress towards true knowledge the more it is renewed in the image of its Creator.  God created the human race in His image, and their original destiny was to live in His likeness of holiness (Gen 1:26-27).  But the family of Adam became lost in trying to seek knowledge and wisdom apart from the will of God (Gen 2:17) and became slaves of sin.  That is the “old self” (Rom 6:6) that must die.  The “new self” is reborn through the waters of baptism into Christ, who is the true image of God and has come to restore fallen humanity to the splendor of that image that had been stained and distorted by sin.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
The Christian's Conformity to the Pattern of the Paschal Mystery

In Romans 6:5-10, Paul focuses on Christian conformity to the life of Christ.  He makes an argument in two steps, beginning each step with a conditional statement in verse 5 and again in verse 8.  Verse 5 is not in our reading but is necessary for understanding Paul’s point.  Each statement expresses the hope that what we believe will become a reality through the promises of Jesus Christ.  The argument centers on the Christian’s conformity to the ethical pattern of Christ’s death, His burial, and His glorious Resurrection which brought about a release from slavery to sin and God’s wrath and His glorious Resurrection to new life:

  • Conditional statement #1, verse 5: If we have been joined to him by a death like his ==> so we shall be by a resurrection like his
  • Conditional statement #2, verse 8: if we died with Christ ==> then we shall live with him too.

According to Paul, in Christian Baptism, our old self is crucified with Christ.  In the believer’s new life, Christ calls the newly reborn Christian to live not only in freedom from “sin” but freedom from “self.”  Again, it is necessary to repeat that our new life is not merely symbolic, and this is why Jesus commands, and the Church teaches, that the Sacrament of Christian Baptism as necessary for salvation (Mk 16:16; Acts 2:38, CCC 1257).  The regenerative waters of baptism yield a transformation and rebirth.  In Scripture, a “sign” points beyond the event to a more significant event.  Baptism is a sign or symbol only in the sense that it is symbolic of the greater supernatural reality of the sacrament, which shows in a visible form God’s action to perform what the physical event signifies, and that is the Christian’s resurrection to a new life in Christ.  The sinner is immersed in water and is thus “buried” with Christ (Col 2:12).  The Christian then is raised up through the water to resurrection in Christ (Rom 8:11) as a “new creation, infused with “divine life” (2 Pt 1:3-4; 2 Cor 5:17).  The Christian becomes a member of God’s family and at one with the Body of Christ animated by the one Spirit (1 Cor 12:13; Eph 4:4ff).  The Sacrament of Baptism in the Trinitarian formula of the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is the “first resurrection” because the Christian’s resurrection will not be complete or final until the end of time when Christ returns in His Second Advent (1 Cor 15:12; Rev 20:5-6; ).  Paul assures us that Christians freed from sin in the Sacrament of Baptism are also freed from the power of sin over their lives because God’s grace is more powerful than the power of sin.  The Fathers of the Church had the saying: “Born once, die twice; born twice, die once.”  Their meaning was that someone born physically and also spiritually in the Sacrament of Baptism would only experience physical death.  That person would not suffer the spiritual death of eternal separation from God, the fate of someone who did not receive spiritual rebirth (see Rev 2:11).

The Regenerative Power of Christian Baptism which images Christ:

Christ’s crucifixion and death ==> Christ’s Resurrection ==> Christ’s glorified new life and the Second Advent
Our crucifixion with Christ and our death to sin & self into the waters of baptism ==> Our resurrection to a new life through the power of the Holy Spirit = “born again” or “born from above” in the image of Christ and “raised up” through the water of baptism ==> Our final resurrection and glorification
Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Dead to Sin in Baptism

10  For by dying, he is dead to sin once and for all, and now the life that he lives is life with God.  11  In the same way, you must see yourselves as being dead to sin but alive for God in Christ Jesus.”

In his commentary on this passage, St. John Chrysostom writes about what it means to be dead to sin in baptism: “Being dead to sin means not obeying it any more.  Baptism has made us dead to sin once and for all, but we must strive to maintain this state of affairs, so that however many commands sins may give us, we no longer obey it but remain unmoved by it, as a corpse does.  Elsewhere, Paul even says that sin itself is dead … in order to show that virtue is easy.  But here, since he is trying to rouse his hearers to action, he says that they are the ones who are dead.”

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Baptism and the Early Church Fathers

There is no question that the early Church Fathers regarded baptism by water and the Spirit as more than a symbolic event.  They recognized the sacramental character of baptism in which the believer by the power of the Holy Spirit dies to sin and resurrects to new life.  This teaching has come down to us unchanged after 2000 years, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church expresses this doctrine: “This sacrament is called Baptism, after the central rite by which it is carried out: to baptize (Greek baptizein) means to ‘plunge’ or ‘immerse’; the ‘plunge’ into the water symbolizes the catechumen’s burial into Christ’s death, from which he rises up by resurrection with him, as a ‘new creature'” (CCC# 1214).  “This sacrament is also called ‘the washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit,’ for it signifies and actually brings about the birth of water and the Spirit without which no one ‘can enter the kingdom of God” (CCC# 1215).  Also, see Church Father Tertullian’s 2nd century AD treatise On the Resurrection of the Flesh, 47.

From her earliest years, the Church considered the sacramental graces of Christian Baptism so important that even infants were not to be denied this special grace.  The Church argued that, in obedience to the commands of the old Sinai Covenant, Joseph and Mary circumcised Jesus on the 8th day of His life (Lk 2:21), and He entered into the life of the community. Therefore, children should be baptized (see St. Peter’s command to baptize adults and children in Acts 2:38-39).  Origen, a Christain theologian, and director of the School of Christian Catechesis in Alexandria, Egypt, wrote in the first quarter of the 200s about the necessity of the Sacrament of Baptism for infants to remove the stain of original sin: “The Church received from the Apostles the tradition of giving Baptism even to infants.  For the Apostles, to whom were committed the secrets of divine mysteries, knew that there is in everyone the innate stains of sin, which must be washed away through water and the Spirit” (Origen, Commentary on Romans, 5.8).  Withholding baptism from children was considered parental abuse.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.

Matthew 10:37-42

Carrying the Cross of Christ Mosaic in St. Mary’s Cathedral, Aberdeen
Fr. Eamon Tobin's Reflection

The cost of discipleship

GOSPEL— This Gospel has two sections. The first contains a number of miscellaneous sayings by Jesus concerning the cost of discipleship. The second relates to the authority of the Apostles and the fate of those who welcome them.

In the first section, Jesus offers a number of what are sometimes called ‘hard sayings’:

  • He who loves another more than Jesus is not worthy to be his disciple.
  • He who fails to embrace the Cross is not worthy to be his disciple.
  • He who seeks self-fulfillment more than self-surrender to Christ is not worthy of him.

In these “hard sayings,” Jesus is conveying to us that our commitment to him must supersede all other commitments and relationships, even those as binding and as precious as the relationship between a parent and a child. The Gospel does not advocate abandonment of familial ties and responsibilities, but places the commitment to Christ above all. The reality is, of course, if one is truly a committed disciple of Christ, he/she becomes more capable of loving family members and all others with a selfless love. The third “hard saying” reminds us that if we are only out to satisfy ourselves, we will in the end be losers. On the other hand, if we seek to give of ourselves, we become our best selves and most pleasing to God.

The second part of today’s Gospel calls us to be hospitable to those who carry the message of Christ to us. In welcoming the messengers of the Gospel, we are welcoming Christ himself. The gift of even a cup of water to little ones will not go unrewarded.

©2020 Fr. Eamon Tobin. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.
Sr. Patricia Stevenson's Reflection

To be a disciple involves pain

GOSPEL—From verse 26 of this tenth chapter of Matthew we have a collection of sayings after the style of Proverbs. A collection of sayings only loosely connected to one another. Most of these sayings were part of the general collection familiar to the early Christian communities. Matthew probably made his selection to fit his general mission thrust and because he saw a connection between them and his local situation.

If this is so then we can presume that family divisions were already occurring in Matthew’s community. This is not surprising when similar problems exist in any family where children decide to follow a different path from the traditional family one.

The challenge around worthiness has been taken too literally over the years. The Essenes required their members to make a radical break with family. Many religious Orders also made separation from family a matter of Rule. Sometimes we have to make choices around family that are very difficult, for example when members are involved in addictive behavior but our Christian teaching tells us that our way to God lies through the ordinary relationships that are part of every human story, in fact today, we would have serious doubts about any group that demanded an adherent cut themselves off from family ties.

To be a disciple involves pain. This is not a good in itself but a consequence of tryingto be faithful in difficult situations and in the face of discouragement. Matthew’ssaying about the cross is given an almost poetic rendering in Paul’s reflection on the paschal mystery in our lives.

©2005 Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Sacred Heart. Used with permision.
Fr. Clement D. Thibodeau's Reflection

Jesus must be our top priority

GOSPEL—Our Gospel reading for this Sunday is the conclusion of Jesus’ instructions to his Twelve Apostles before he sends them out on mission. Everything Jesus says in Chapter 10 of Matthew’s Gospel, then, can be read as outlining what it means to accept a vocation from him. The first lines of our Gospel reading are a reminder to the apostles of what their top priority must be. It is not a rejection of family, but an affirmation that following Jesus is even more important than their families. Secondly, following Jesus might lead to difficulties at times. We should expect the cross. Thirdly, it is worth noting that Jesus makes himself –not the Father, not the Law of Moses –as the top priority for his apostles. Neither Moses nor any prophet would have spoken like this. Jesus as Emmanuel, God-With-Us, alone can reveal fully who God is and so can call forth total commitment from his disciples. Just as he has come to do not his own will but that of his Father, so, too, anyone who is a disciple of Jesus must make him their absolute priority. This is crucial, since the apostles represent Jesus. Those who welcome them,welcome him. Therefore, they must reflect him in their own lives. Finally, Jesus promises that all who welcome the apostles welcome him and will be blessed for doing so. The apostles, and all Christian missionaries of the early Church, depended on someone to welcome them, feed them,and give them places to stay as they traveled from city to city. When Jesus taught the apostles to pray, in the Lord’s Prayer, “Give us each day our daily bread,”this was the first meaning of that prayer. The apostles went forth in faith that someone would welcome and feed them wherever they went.

©2020 Father Clement D. Thibodeau. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.
Sr. Mary McGlone's Reflection

There is no middle ground

GOSPEL—Today’s selection from Matthew’s Gospel begins with three statements that warn Jesus’ would-be followers about the cost of discipleship in relation to their sense of identity, their willingness to face suffering, and the gift of their very lives. When Jesus talks about loving him more than their fathers or mothers, sons or daughters, he’s entering into the apostles’ religious identity, not just their family life. In Jesus’ religious culture people were very aware of being children of Abraham, of being from a particular tribe or clan, town, etc. Their ancestral heritage was the core of their identity. Respect for tradition was intrinsic to self-respect. We recall that when the prodigal son went off it wasn’t just a case of a rebellious teenager who made a bad name for himself, but he disgraced his father and heritage. When Jesus demanded that disciples love him over their parents, he called the disciples to be ready to let go of their tradition, of their very identity, on behalf of what he was offering.

Following that, Jesus didn’t simply ask the disciples to be more committed to him than to their family and traditions, he demanded that they trust him as their future as well. At that time children were people’s hope for the future. In a faith tradition that was uncertain about an afterlife, people knew that they somehow lived on in their descendants. To be childless was tantamount to being cursed, seemingly deemed unworthy of continued existence (Psalm 127:3-4). One’s children were visible blessing and promise, as important as wealth, and the only real social security system known to the culture. Thus, to value Jesus over children was to stake your future on him, to say that only with his cause did you have a future and, only through him could you make your mark on history. By demanding that apostles be faithful to him over their ancestors and descendants, Jesus was telling them that their entire identity had to be centered on him or else they were not his disciples.

Jesus’ other two demands say the same thing as the first using different and equally challenging examples. The image of taking up the cross (even if the phrase was anachronistic before Jesus’ death) indicated that the apostles had to be willing to share his fate — in life, death and new life. Finally, both the theme of identity and the inevitability of the cross described losing one’s own life for Jesus’ sake and finding it again in an entirely new and unimaginable way.

We can note that Jesus said these things to his apostles. These sayings were part of the instructions he gave the ones he had chosen to send on the road in his name. The idea that the demands may not have applied to everyone in exactly the same way is insinuated by what Jesus says next about those who welcome the evangelizers.

The itinerant ministers are so identified with Christ that receiving them is the same as receiving Christ himself. Of course, giving someone hospitality is an act of solidarity that identifies the householder with the guest. It is an implicit sign of approval in the same way that eating together signifies a bond of communion. Thus in the end nobody gets off the hook. Some will give up everything and take to the road in the name of Jesus. Others give Jesus’ representatives a place in their home and life. But, in the end they all must decide if they are fully with him or have no part of him.

There is no middle ground.

©2017 National Catholic Reporter. All Rights Reserved. Sr. Mary McGlone  is a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet. Her 2020 Reflections can be read at National Catholic Reporter website.

Further Study

Verse by verse Commentary

Two weeks ago we heard Jesus commission the twelve apostles and last week we heard some of His instructions to them. This week we hear the conclusion of His instructions.

37 “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me,  

Luke 14:26 says “hate” father and mother; these words here soften that understanding for us. Luke actually says the same thing as Matthew. Aramaic had no other way of saying “love less” than “hate” and one writing from that perspective would use those words. The word of God in fact leads to these divisions mentioned here. It can lead, even within families, to those who embrace the faith being regarded an enemies by relatives who resist the word of truth. These words do not set up any opposition between the first and fourth commandments; they simply indicate the order of priorities.
 
and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; 38 and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me.  

This is the first time Matthew uses the word “cross.” Other allusions to the passion are found in this gospel before Matthew predicts it openly. Crucifixion was a method of execution of Oriental origin which the Romans adopted and perfected for rebels and slaves. Roman law prohibited its use on a Roman citizen. The use of the cross as a Christian symbol makes it difficult for the reader to grasp the harshness of this saying when it was initially uttered. The personal renunciation implied will go far beyond renunciation of one’s family.

39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 40 “Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.

This explains the nature of the apostolic office using the legal principle governing a Jewish emissary: “A man’s agent is like himself.” It deepens the religious basis of the apostolate by deriving it ultimately from God the Father Himself.

 41 Whoever receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward,

A prophet’s mission is not essentially one of announcing future events; his main role is that of communicating the word of God as he monitors the status of the covenant relationship of the people with God. Prophets were mistreated on earth but rewarded in heaven for their loyalty to God.

and whoever receives a righteous man because he is righteous will receive a righteous man’s reward.

The very fact of generously receiving God’s friends will gain one the reward that they obtain.

42 And whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink because he is a disciple – amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward.”

Even those who give a glass of cold water – an alms, or any other small service – will receive a reward because he has shown generosity to our Lord Himself (Matthew 25:40).

Source: Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA

The conditions of discipleship

GOSPEL— In the Gospel Reading, Jesus gives a teaching on the conditions of discipleship. Jesus, the Living Word of God to humanity, warns that the decision to follow Him may cause a break in the bonds of our friendships and families. Alluding to His future crucifixion, Jesus invites His disciples to follow Him in announcing the Kingdom in His healing ministry, in His suffering, and ultimately in His glory. Jesus also speaks of the reward for receiving one of His emissaries and the Gospel message he carries. Jesus promises that someone who does even a small act of kindness for one of His disciples will not lose his reward of eternal life.

Is Not Worthy of Me

Jesus said: 37 “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; 38 and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me. 

The phrase “is not worthy of me” in Matthew 10:37 is more accurately translated “does not deserve to belong to me.”  The Greek adjective axios has the sense of “belonging” rather than “worth” (Fr. Harrington, Sacra Pagina: The Gospel of Matthew, page 151).  Jesus’ warning in Matthew 10:34-37 is that the decision to follow Him and become a member of His covenant family may cause a break in the bonds within our human families.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Jesus Alludes to His Future Crucifixion

38 and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me.  39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

Jesus is alluding to His future crucifixion.  He invites His disciples to follow Him in announcing the Kingdom in His healing ministry, in His suffering, and ultimately in His glory.  Crucifixion was a well-known form of capital punishment in Jesus’ time.  It was invented by the Persians, adopted by the Greeks, and practiced by the Romans for executions of non-Roman citizens.  Jews and Israelites found crucifixion abhorrent.  Although the disciples could not have understood it, Jesus’ statement becomes a prophecy of His future crucifixion.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
The Contrast Between Temporal and Eternal Life

38 and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me.  39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 

In verses 38-39, Jesus gives a warning and contrasts temporal and eternal life.  A disciple must be willing to embrace suffering for the sake of Jesus’ Kingdom, even if the price of faithfulness is martyrdom.  Anyone who tries to preserve his life by denying Jesus condemns himself to eternal destruction.  But for anyone willing to lose his earthly life for His sake, Jesus promises the reward of everlasting life in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Promised Rewards

40 “Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.  41 Whoever receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever receives a righteous man because he is righteous will receive a righteous man’s reward.  42 And whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink because he is a disciple; amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward.

In verses 40-42, Jesus speaks of the promised rewards for welcoming Jesus’ emissaries.  The words “who sent me” in verse 40, referring to God the Father, may also be linked to the ones Jesus sent.  The term “Apostle” in Greek means “the one sent.”  It was a rabbinic principle that “the representative of a person is like himself” (Mishnah: Ber., 5.5), and this is the principle that underlies verse 40.  Jesus’ point is that He is God the Father’s representative, and the disciples are His representatives.  Therefore, whoever receives the disciples is, in effect, receiving Jesus.  And since Jesus is the Father’s representative, those who receive the disciples are also receiving the Father and will be rewarded by Him.

41 Whoever receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever receives a righteous man because he is righteous will receive a righteous man’s reward.

The focus of this verse is the reward for receiving God’s prophet and his message.  In the Bible, a prophet is one who speaks the words of God, and a righteous person is one who is entirely obedient to the Law.  Jesus defined “righteousness” in the New Covenant in the Beatitudes Discourse and the Sermon on the Mount.

42 And whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink because he is a disciple; amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward.

“Little ones” refers to Jesus’ disciples, the “children” who serve the Father by announcing the coming of the Kingdom.  Jesus promises that someone who does even a small act of kindness for one of His disciples will not lose his reward of eternal life.  Think of the implication of that promise and put it into action in your life today!

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Carrying the Cross of Christ Mosaic in St. Mary’s Cathedral, Aberdeen

We need to be hospitable and generous

by Fr. Anthony Kadavil

Hospitality means acknowledging the presence of God in others and serving Him in them, especially those in whom we least expect to find Him. We, as individuals and as a community, are to look for opportunities to be hospitable–and, of course, there are plenty of ways of offering hospitality. Maybe hospitality is offered through a kind word to a stranger – or even a smile. A kind smile or a “hello” to someone waiting with us in a grocery line may be the only kindness that person encounters all day. We become fully alive as Christians through the generous giving of ourselves. What is more important than sending checks for charitable causes is giving of ourselves to people, first, in the way we think about them, for from that spring will flow the ways we speak to them and about them, forgive their failings, encourage them, show them respect, console them, and offer them help. Such generosity reflects warmth radiating from the very love of God.

We become fully alive as Christians through the generous giving of ourselves. What is more important than sending checks for charitable causes is giving of ourselves to people, first, in the way we think about them, for from that spring will flow the ways we speak to them and about them, forgive their failings, encourage them, show them respect, console them, and offer them help. Such generosity reflects warmth radiating from the very love of God.

Materialism and consumerism dominate our lives and turn our homes into isolated fortresses with iron gates, intruder alarms, and surveillance cameras. Society believes in competition, power, influence and success. Jesus’ argument is that when we work hard to ensure that everyone has enough, there will be enough for us, too. Hence, the questions we should ask are, “Am I living my life at the expense of others?” “Am I trying to live in solidarity with others?” and “Am I aware of people in my area who are in real need?”

In the words of Mother Teresa, “The Gospel is written on your fingers.” Holding up her fingers, one at a time, she accented each word: “You-Did-It-To-Me.” Mother Teresa then added: “At the end of your life, your five fingers will either excuse you or accuse you of doing it unto the least of these.”

Visit Fr. Tony’s Homilies each week for an introduction to the Sunday readings, scripture lessons, homily starter anecdotes, a summary of each of the scripture readings, and Gospel exegesis. Fr. Tony’s Life Messages have be used with permission.

Praying with the Word

by Fr. Eamon Tobin

Jesus, in the Gospel you tell us that commitment to you must be the number one priority in our lives. Help me to recognize what, if any, other loves I have that distract me from you, and help me to move towards putting you first in my life.

Reflection Questions

by Fr. Eamon Tobin

1. Turn to the person next to you and share what word/s or image/s in the readings caught your attention. Did they comfort or challenge you or touch you in some way? Which part of the Passion story speaks to you most this year? Why?

2. Did you grow up in a home that offered hospitality to others? In what ways does your parish show hospitality to newcomers? In what ways could it do a better job?

3. Dying to the false self is usually not easy. What can help us in this process?

4. In the Gospel, Jesus says that the giving of a glass of water will not go unrewarded. What are other examples of small acts of love that you and I can practice?

5. Name one thing today’s Gospel says to us that we disciples of Jesus need to heed and act on.

©2020 Fr. Eamon Tobin. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.
Discussion Questions

Discussion Questions

by Fr. Clement D. Thibodeau

1. The Shunammite woman insisted, at first, that she needed nothing from Elisha or God. Why do we sometimes find it difficult to acknowledge our need before God? Are we afraid of what God might give us? What keeps us from trusting him more?

2. Paul assures us that, through baptism, we have died to sin and now live for Christ. Still, temptation remains a dangerous foe in our lives. How can we help one another discover and believe in the grace of God when faced by temptations?

3. The Gospel reading speaks of the importance of hospitality for missionaries who traveled from city to city spreading the Gospel. How can we offer hospitality and support for those of us who are called to dedicate their lives tothe Gospel today?

© 2017 Rev. Clement D. Thibodeau. All rights reserved. Used with permission.
Scripture Study Questions

Scripture Study Questions

by Vince Contreras

1. In the first reading, why and how did the woman of Shunem show hospitality to the prophet Elisha? How was she rewarded? What other biblical figure does this remind you of? (see Luke 1:5-25)

2. In the second reading, what are the principal effects of Baptism? What is Paul alluding to when he describes this mystery? How does verse 11 relate to the Gospel reading for this Sunday?

3. In the Gospel reading, what is the standard that Jesus sets forth as a requirement for being his disciple? What is the price? What is the reward?

4. What image comes to mind of those who receive Jesus’ disciples as if they were receiving him? How is this like receiving a king’s envoy or the ambassador from a head of state?

5. Who are the “little ones” in this verse? Why do you think Jesus refers to them in this way?

6. What kinds of divisions has Jesus caused in your life? What would you do if Jesus asked you to turn away from or leave those you love most?

7. How has the paradox of this verse worked itself out in your life? If you do not know, what might ”losing your life” for Jesus’ sake mean for you?

© 2017 Vince Contreras. Used with permission.

Responding to God’s Word

by Fr. Eamon Tobin

Live the message of hospitality in your home, neighborhood, workplace and Church.

Closing Prayer

by Fr. Eamon Tobin

Father, I abandon myself into your hands; do with me as you will. For whatever you do, I thank you; I am ready for all, I accept all.Let your will be done in me as in all creatures; I ask nothing else.Into your hands I commend my soul; I give it to you with all the love of my heart. I love you and I want to give myself into your hands with a trust beyond all measure because you are my Father. — Charles de Foucauld (Prayer of Abandonment)

I thank God for my handicaps, for through them, I have found myself, my work, and my God. — Helen Keller

SUNDAY VOICES

Video by Larry Broding. Visit Word-Sunday.com website for detailed commentary and other resources regarding the readings for this Sunday.


Introduction to 13th Sunday of Ordinary Time readings

INTRODUCTION — Living as a Christian is not a neutral reality. The disciples and early Christians were committing themselves to real challenges, often life-threatening. Answering Christ’s call was to embrace his life with all its ramifications. Those who did so believed it would be worth it. It’s doubtful that they blindly followed him. Have we ever considered that being Christian may cost us something? Perhaps we’ve never asked ourselves this question. Maybe it is time to do so.

PENITENTIAL ACT

Lord Jesus, you called the apostles to take up your cross: Lord, have mercy. Christ Jesus, you promised rewards to those who lived as you lived: Christ, have mercy. Lord Jesus, you offer us the same invitation: Lord, have mercy.

NCR SUNDAY RESOURCESJoan DeMerchant


Racism and faith

Note: Fr. Sigma has no available homilies for 13A Ordinary Time.  Instead, here is the homily he gave on June 7, 2020.

EXCERPT – This week I began to understand that racism is not limited to the individual intentional actions of bad people. I will repeat that. Racism is not limited to the individual intentional actions of bad people. Actions such as assaulting a person of color are certainly a part of racism. They are its most visible part. But racism is bigger. It goes beyond individual intentional actions. Racism is imbedded in the structures of our society. It is present in the ways laws, tradition, and influence give preference to one race over the other in the areas of business, housing, education, health, and safety.

RELATED HOMILIES BY FR. SIGMA: Fr. Sigma has no homilies in his archive for 13A Ordinary Time.

BUILDING ON THE WORDFr. George Sigma


The costs (and rewards) of Christian Discipleship

EXCERPT — The rewards for accepting the Gospel are awesome, but the demands are hefty. Jesus wants his followers to recognize fully the implications of their decision to believe. Belief is not passive or easy. It is an active engagement with God and community. Devoting oneself to God will result in a life of sacrifice for the sake of others. Jesus previews the work of true discipleship and invites his followers to imitate him, while recognizing the benefits and challenges they might encounter.

On Juneteenth, look to the biblical prophets and the Black Lives Matter movement

Juneteenth, when we celebrate the freedom of slaves in the United States, is a good time to reflect on ancient prophets who have much in common with today’s activists.

AMERICA MAGAZINEJamie Waters


Priests act in persona Christi

EXCERPT – In our Gospel reading, Jesus affirms that whoever receives someone he sends receives him. Catholic doctrine declares that the priest acts in persona Christi–in the person of Christ. This is most evident inthe Mass, when the priest speaks the words of Christ in the Eucharistic Prayer and then feeds the community with the body and blood of Christ, but it is also true in general. We may find it difficult to affirm this teaching in an age when we have been made acutely aware of the failings of some priests. Yet, the New Testament, in its stunning honesty, did not hesitate to point out the failures of the apostles themselves. We can affirm this teaching because it is a grace given to usby the Lord. He chooses to act through priests.But not only through priests. All Christians, by virtue of their baptism, are incorporated into the Church and become a priestly people. In a broader sense, we are all called to act in persona Christi. This is another way of saying that we are called to be saints.

Echoing God’s WordSRev. Clement D. Thimbodeau (1932-2017)


Letting go of the beloved

EXCERPT – If the totality of our love is exhausted by any created thing or person, then that “loved one”must become the anchor of our being, our purpose and fulfillment, our security and final hope. Sooner or later such a total object of our love becomes our idol, a false god. But God must always be “more than” any creature of earth. If we turn a human person into a god, either that person will eventually possess us, or we will try to possess and use the fabricated god as an idol. Psychologically this paradox makes sense, although not to the person under the spell of idolatry. If we say to another, “You’re my everything; you’re my meaning; I am nothing without you,” then what is left of us to give that person? Why would he or she even be bothered with us, if we are nothing without them?

SUNDAY WEB SITEFather John Kavanaugh, SJ

THIS WEEK’S CATECHISM EXCERPTS

Visit Doctrinal Homily Outlines for further commentary and catechetical connections.

“By using the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the homilist can help his people integrate the word of God, the faith of the Church, the moral demands of the Gospel, and their personal and liturgical spirituality.”

From the Homiletic Directory
CCC 2232-2233: to follow Christ is first vocation of Christian
CCC 537, 628, 790, 1213, 1226-1228, 1694: baptism, to die to self, to live for Christ
CCC 1987: grace justifies through faith and baptism

To follow Christ is first vocation of Christian

The Family and the Kingdom

2232 Family ties are important but not absolute. Just as the child grows to maturity and human and spiritual autonomy, so his unique vocation which comes from God asserts itself more clearly and forcefully. Parents should respect this call and encourage their children to follow it. They must be convinced that the first vocation of the Christian is to follow Jesus: “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.”39

2233 Becoming a disciple of Jesus means accepting the invitation to belong to God’s family, to live in conformity with His way of life: “For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother, and sister, and mother.”40

Parents should welcome and respect with joy and thanksgiving the Lord’s call to one of their children to follow him in virginity for the sake of the Kingdom in the consecrated life or in priestly ministry.

Baptism, to die to self, to live for Christ

The baptism of Jesus

537 Through Baptism the Christian is sacramentally assimilated to Jesus, who in his own baptism anticipates his death and resurrection. The Christian must enter into this mystery of humble self-abasement and repentance, go down into the water with Jesus in order to rise with him, be reborn of water and the Spirit so as to become the Father’s beloved son in the Son and “walk in newness of life”:238

Let us be buried with Christ by Baptism to rise with him; let us go down with him to be raised with him; and let us rise with him to be glorified with him.239Everything that happened to Christ lets us know that, after the bath of water, the Holy Spirit swoops down upon us from high heaven and that, adopted by the Father’s voice, we become sons of God.240

“Buried with Christ. . .”

628 Baptism, the original and full sign of which is immersion, efficaciously signifies the descent into the tomb by the Christian who dies to sin with Christ in order to live a new life. “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.”475

“One Body”

790 Believers who respond to God’s word and become members of Christ’s Body, become intimately united with him: “In that body the life of Christ is communicated to those who believe, and who, through the sacraments, are united in a hidden and real way to Christ in his Passion and glorification.”220 This is especially true of Baptism, which unites us to Christ’s death and Resurrection, and the Eucharist, by which “really sharing in the body of the Lord, . . . we are taken up into communion with him and with one another.”221

The Sacrament of Baptism

1213 Holy Baptism is the basis of the whole Christian life, the gateway to life in the Spirit (vitae spiritualis ianua),4 and the door which gives access to the other sacraments. Through Baptism we are freed from sin and reborn as sons of God; we become members of Christ, are incorporated into the Church and made sharers in her mission: “Baptism is the sacrament of regeneration through water in the word.”5

Baptism in the Church

1226 From the very day of Pentecost the Church has celebrated and administered holy Baptism. Indeed St. Peter declares to the crowd astounded by his preaching: “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”26 The apostles and their collaborators offer Baptism to anyone who believed in Jesus: Jews, the God-fearing, pagans.27 Always, Baptism is seen as connected with faith: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household,” St. Paul declared to his jailer in Philippi. And the narrative continues, the jailer “was baptized at once, with all his family.”28

1227 According to the Apostle Paul, the believer enters through Baptism into communion with Christ’s death, is buried with him, and rises with him:

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 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.29

The baptized have “put on Christ.”30 Through the Holy Spirit, Baptism is a bath that purifies, justifies, and sanctifies.31

1228 Hence Baptism is a bath of water in which the “imperishable seed” of the Word of God produces its life-giving effect.32 St. Augustine says of Baptism: “The word is brought to the material element, and it becomes a sacrament.”33

Life in Christ

1694 Incorporated into Christ by Baptism, Christians are “dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” and so participate in the life of the Risen Lord.8 Following Christ and united with him,9 Christians can strive to be “imitators of God as beloved children, and walk in love”10 by conforming their thoughts, words and actions to the “mind . . . which is yours in Christ Jesus,”11 and by following his example.12

Grace justifies through faith and baptism

Justification

1987 The grace of the Holy Spirit has the power to justify us, that is, to cleanse us from our sins and to communicate to us “the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ” and through Baptism:34

But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him. For 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 as dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.35


SOURCES/CREDITS:
Fr. Tobin Commentary Text: ©2019 Fr. Eamon Tobin, Commentaries & Faith Sharing PDF Handout. Images, videos, scripture verses, and other material which accompany Fr. Tobin’s text are curated by LectioTube.com. They do not necessarily reflect Fr. Tobin’s opinions or preferences. Excerpts from the Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States of America, second typical edition © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC. Used with permission.
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