13th Sunday in Ordinary Time 2020 – Year A

2 Kings 4:8-11. 14-16 – Psalm 88:2-3, 16-19 – Romans 6:3-4.8-11 – Matthew 10: 37-42

In the Gospel today Jesus says to his disciples, ‘Anyone who prefers father or mother to me is not worthy of me’. It is the concluding part of Jesus’ instructions to his disciples who are to be sent on mission. Although their master gives the disciples a body of teachings, first and foremost they receive a mission for their lives. This is why this mission must take precedence over all other relationships, which are given their proper place and not denied. The missionary must be prepared for rejection, suffering, even death. The result is that he will enjoy a great peace and joy

But this gospel applies not only to missionaries but to all Christ’s followers, people like you and me! From the moment of our Baptism, we are commanded to give God the first place in our lives. We must not prefer any other person or thing to God. This, in fact, is the first commandment.

A married man’s commitment is to his wife and family but not so much that God is removed’ or ‘fades away’ in his life. The relationship with God is not just one among others. It has to be given first place.

Jesus also says that ‘anyone who finds his life will lose it and anyone who loses his life for his sake will find it’. What does he mean? He is saying that there is no place for a policy of safety first in the Christian life. The person who first of all seeks ease, comfort, security and the fulfillment of personal ambition may well get all these things – but he will not be a happy person for he was sent into the world to serve God and his fellow men and women. This is the one who sets out to find his life but in the end loses it. The opposite is that we fulfill God’s purpose for us by spending ourselves selflessly for others, be it our families, friends and especially in real service for the poor and those deprived. This is the way to true happiness and friendship with God both now and in the life to come.  This person loses his life but in reality has found it.

The last part of his discourse today is about welcome. Someone has said that welcome and hospitality were the very basis of the ministry of Jesus. He was constantly welcoming people, whether they were Jews or Gentiles, virtuous or sinners. Little wonder people flocked to him because they knew they were fully welcome. Hospitality constitutes a major theme in both the first reading and the gospel.  Jesus identifies what is done to others as done to himself even in those people in whom it is difficult to see any identification with him. If we want a simple concrete proof of whether we love God or not then the way we love and welcome others is the direct proof.  And if our prayer does not lead to this then our prayer is surely suspect. The basis of all hospitality is that we all belong to one family and that every person is a brother or sister in a very real (and not just a ‘spiritual’ or ‘religious’ sense). It can, in the words of the Gospel, be something as simple as offering a cup of cold water. Unfortunately, in our affluent urban societies, the protection of our material goods now usually takes priority over welcoming the stranger. The open door has been replaced by iron bars, alarms and surveillance cameras. It is again a sign of the serious distortion of our values and a breakdown in human relationships. But at least the Eucharist surely ought to be the place where at least everyone might feel welcome especially newcomers to the area. The ‘kiss of peace’ is a symbol of our desire to welcome whomever we might meet after the celebration.

Lord Jesus, help us not to prefer any other person or thing to you. Help us to lose our lives in order to find them and give us the great gift of hospitality and welcome.  Amen”.

Fr. Jim Kirstein, SMA [RIP]

Click on the play button below for an alternative homily from Fr Tom Casey SMA