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July 2 2017 (A) Thirteenth Sunday of the Year
A. THE BIBLE as Guide in Life and Liturgy (Sunday Readings)
B. Reflection & Dialogue: “As the Father has sent me…”. Continuity in Christ’s mission to our own day.
A. The Bible as Guide in Life and Liturgy (Sunday Readings).
First Reading (2 Kings 4:8-11, 14-16). This is a holy man of God, let him rest here. This first reading is chosen to go with the text of the Gospel reading which says: “Anyone who welcomes a holy man because he is a holy man will have a holy man’s reward”. Elisha of this reading was a holy man; he is reckoned among the early pre-classical prophets. He belonged to an early prophetic group, known as “sons of the prophets”. These were regarded as holy men and were highly respected, having supporters in towns and cities, some of them well-to-do. The Books of Kings have a number of stories about the two early prophets Elijah and his
successor Elisha, of which this is a delightful one. He was on his way to Shunem, a town on the northern border of Israel, mentioned elsewhere in the Old Testament. A woman of rank, a supporter of the prophetic groups, requested her husband to have him stay with them, regarding him as a holy man of God. She provided him with good accommodation. Elisha asked her what recompense he may male to her, and his servant Gehazi replied that she was childless, and her 6+husband advanced in years. Elisha told her that within a year she would hold as son in her arms. For her service to a holy man she would have a holy man’s reward.
Responsorial Psalm (Psalm 88[89]). I will sing for ever of your love, O Lord.
Second Reading (Romans 6:3-4, 8-11). When we were baptized we went into the tomb with Christ, so that we too might live a new life. Paul views two powers at work in the world, death through Adam, the First Adam, life through Christ, the Second Adam. Life, and a new age, have come through the death and resurrection of Christ, and Christians through their baptism are mystically, but in a very real way, united with Christ, with his death and his resurrection. Baptism in the early Church was by immersion, and Paul can say that in baptism Christian went into the tomb with Christ, and were raised from the dead with him. They were united with his victory over death, so that they too might live a new life. They will have that true life at the resurrection. But as Christ has died once for all to sin, so too must believers here on earth consider themselves as dead to sin and alive to this new for God in Christ Jesus. Paul does not here spell out the implications of this for Christian living. While he is very conscious of the power of grace, he also is aware of human frailty, which can lead to sin, but a frailty that should never forget the power of God’s grace in Christ, dying for the forgiveness of sin and rising again to bring new life at any time, after any human failure.
Gospel (Matthew 10:37-42). Whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me. This is the ending of what is known as the missionary discourse of Jesus to his Twelve apostles, the first part of which was given above on the Eleventh Sunday. As such it is today aptly introduced in the lectionary as “Jesus instructed the Twelve as follows”. While initially intended for the mission of the Twelve, by reason of its content much of it holds for missionaries of any age, and in fact some of it for believers in general, as some of the sayings of Jesus are of a general nature and are repeated elsewhere in this Gospel.
The opening sentence on the need to prefer Jesus above any family connection stresses the centrality of Jesus for Christians. Elsewhere in the Gospel Jesus will say that his coming would be a cause of division within families, and so, of course it was, and would remain. This does not take from Jesus’ respect for family values, and the respect due to parents and others. A similar saying of Jesus follows: the requirement of taking up one’s cross to be his follower. The brief saying on anyone who finds his life will lose its and anyone who loses his life for Jesus’ sake will find it is linked with that of taking up one’s cross, as is stated more fully in Matthew 16:24-25: taking up one’s cross is an emptying of oneself of what is incompatible with the Christian calling.
The concluding three sayings in the missionary discourse are on the continuity of Christ’s mission, and the Father’s mission, through all who partake and help in this. This continuity in mission from the Father through the Son and believers (with the work of the Holy Spirit) is something central to Jesus’ message in John’s Gospel, but found here in its own way in Matthew. Anyone who welcomes, accepts, the Twelve, the apostles and their successors, welcomes Jesus himself, and through Jesus the Father who sent him. There are also rewards for those who welcome, accept and help, those involved in this apostolic succession – expressed in language reminiscent of that used of the prophet Elisha in today’s first reading, be they prophet or holy man. All who help in the slightest way in this work of furthering Jesus’ mission will be rewarded: anyone who gives even a cup of cold water “to one of these little ones because they are a disciple”. The term “little ones” in Matthew’s Gospel has differing meaning according to context. Here it seems to mean either the apostles or all disciples as witnesses to the kingdom of God, especially those actively involved in furthering the mission of the kingdom, first proclaimed by Jesus in his missionary discourse to the Twelve. It forms a very fitting ending to the discourse. The cup of cold water image has been continued down the ages by many widow’s mite and mite boxes

B. Reflection & Dialogue: “As the Father has sent me…”. Continuity in Christ’s mission to our own day.
After his resurrection, in the upper room in his first appearance to his disciples Jesus said: “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you” (John 21:21). This would be to the whole world. During his public life Jesus chose twelve special apostles, to represent a new Israel, and sent the out, not to the whole world but to only to his own people, lost sheep of the house of Israel. By the choice of the Twelve and this first mission, accompanied by his lengthy missionary discourse, Jesus had clearly the continuity of his mission in mind. After his resurrection at a pre-determined mountain in Galilee, where his mission in Israel began, the chosen band were sent to preach the Gospel to the ends of earth, to make disciples and to baptize and to teach those baptized to obey everything that that Jesus had commanded them. Fidelity to the Gospel tradition would be central to the development of this that came with Paul’s mission. After Paul’s departure this fidelity would be stressed in letters in Paul’s name to Timothy (1 Timothy 6:20; 2 Timothy 1:12, 14), where Timothy is told to guard “the deposit”, a word in modern translations rendered as “what has been entrusted” to him. This has been regarded as the deposit of faith. In its Constitution on Divine Revelation (paragraph 10) the Vatican Council has spoken of this deposit. “Sacred Tradition and sacred Scripture make up a single deposit of the Word of God, which is entrusted to the Church. By adhering to it the entire holy people, united with its pastors, remains faithful to the teaching of the apostles, to the brotherhood, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. The task of giving an authentic interpretation of the Word of God, whether in written form or in the form of tradition, has been entrusted to the living teaching office of the Church alone. Its authority in this matter is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ. Yet the Magisterium is not superior to the Word of God, but is its servant”.
By the nature of the case there has in this matter been dialogue down through the centuries, and there is still in our own day, between the Church and its members and society. The deposit of faith is not a self-contained body of truths. The Word of God, from the Gospel and the Apostles onwards, has been embodied in particular historical situations and mental frameworks, regarding for instance slavery, the place of women, sexual behaviour, elements of bread and wine for the Eucharist, water for baptism. It will be for Church authority to determine what of this is historically conditioned, and what of the deposit. The dialogue goes on in our own day, with regard to ordination of women to the priesthood, or diaconate, questions relating to homosexual relations and a number of other points of doctrine and practice. It is all part of the living continuity with Christ’s mission and the mission of the Church in the modern world.
There is also continuity between Christ and his Church through the example of Christ. He lives in the ministers of his Church. Anyone who receives and
welcomes them, welcomes Christ; anyone who supports them, even in the smallest way such as a cup of cold water or small contributions to mite boxes or other forms of petitions, supports Christ, and in Christ’s own words will certainly not lose their reward.