13th SUNDAY YEAR A GOSPEL COMMENTARY: “WHOEVER LOSES HIS LIFE FOR MY SAKE WILL FIND IT” (Mt 10:37-42).
13th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A Gospel
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.”
Gospel Commentary from the Navarre Bible, Commentary to the Gospel of St. Matthew (with permission)
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;
- 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 as enemies by relatives who resist the word of truth.
- This is why our Lord goes on (v. 37) to say that nothing should come between him and his disciple — not even father, mother, son or daughter: any and every obstacle (cf. Mt 5:29-30) must be avoided.
- Obviously these words of Jesus do not set up any opposition between the first and fourth commandments (love for God above all things and love for one’s parents): he is simply indicating the order of priorities. We should love God with all our strength (cf. Mt 22:37), and make a serious effort to be saints; and we should also love and respect — in theory and in practice – the parents God has given us; they have generously cooperated with the creative power of God in bringing us into the world and there is so much that we owe them.
- But love for our parents should not come before love of God; usually there is no reason why these two loves should clash, but if that should ever happen, we should be quite clear in our mind and in our heart about what Jesus says here.
- He has in fact given us an example to follow on this point: “How is it that you sought me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Lk 2:49) — his reply when, as a youth, Mary and Joseph found him in the Temple of Jerusalem after a long search.
- This event in our Lord’s life is a guideline for every Christian — parent or child. Children should learn from it that their affection for their parents should never come before their love for God, particularly when our Creator asks us to follow him in a way which implies special self-giving on our part;
- parents should take the lesson that their children belong to God in the first place, and therefore he has a right to do with them what he wishes, even if this involves sacrifice, even heroic sacrifice.
- This teaching of our Lord asks us to be generous and to let God have his way. In fact, however, God never lets himself be outdone in generosity. Jesus has promised a hundredfold gain, even in this life, and later on eternal life (cf. Mt 19:29), to those who readily respond to his holy will.
38-39 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.
- The teaching contained in the preceding verses is summed up in these two succinct sentences. Following Christ, doing what he asks, means gambling this present life to gain eternal life.
- “People who are constantly concerned with themselves, who act above all for their own satisfaction, endanger their eternal salvation and cannot avoid being unhappy even in this life. Only if a person forgets himself and gives himself to God and to others, in marriage as well as in any other aspect of life, can he be happy on this earth, with a happiness that is a preparation for, and a foretaste of, the joy of heaven” (St. Josemaria, Christ is passing by, 24).
- Clearly, Christian life is based on self-denial: there is no Christianity without the Cross.
40 Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.
- To encourage the Apostles and to persuade others to receive them, our Lord affirms that there is an intimate solidarity, or even a kind of identity, between himself and his disciples. God in Christ, Christ in the Apostles: this is the bridge between heaven and earth (cf. I Cor 3:21-23).
41-42 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.”
- A prophet’s mission is not essentially one of announcing future events; his main role is that of communicating the word of God (cf. Jer 11:2; Is 1:2).
- The righteous man, the just man, is he who obeys the Law of God and follows his paths (cf. Gen 6:9; Is 3:10).
- Here Jesus tells us that everyone who humbly listens to and welcomes prophets and righteous men, recognizing God in them, will receive the reward of a prophet and a righteous man.
- The very fact of generously receiving God’s friends will gain one the reward that they obtain. Similarly, if we should see God in the least of his disciples (v. 42), even if they do not seem very important: they are important, because they are envoys of God and of his Son. That is why he who gives them a glass of cold water — an alms, or any small service — will receive a reward: for he has shown generosity to our Lord himself (cf. Mt 25:40).
VIDEO COMMENTARY ON TODAY’S GOSPEL
In today’s gospel, Jesus again mentions taking up one’s cross in order to follow Him. While it may be difficult to understand why a good God is willing to let His people suffer, it is what we need to do to be worthy of Him. For us who have not developed a deeper relationship with Him, we may not fully understand what being worthy of Him will amount to. But as many on their deathbed have realized, nothing else can compare with the joy and reward of His heavenly kingdom.
Suffering may come in many forms – physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual. It may be a car accident that maims one for life, a speech impediment that crushes one’s self-esteem, or a cancer or Covid-19 affliction that makes one fear the specter of death. It may be a suffering caused by a broken relationship, being bullied in cyberspace or rejected, mocked and persecuted for one’s beliefs or unpopular decisions. It can be a mother who has had a stillborn child or a woman who has had several miscarriages. It can be an addiction that can’t seem to go away but bothers the conscience nonetheless. Wherever they come from, these are crosses we bear. And no one is exempt from such.
But suffering does not mean that we can just accept and say it is God’s will. If we can do something to solve or alleviate that suffering, so we should. Being sick and not taking your medicine is fatalism. God allows suffering to either teach us and test us or save us and strengthen us.
Surely, in our own sufferings, there is a greater good being served. Such is the deep mystery of suffering that only God explain. But when we suffer, Jesus feels, weeps and waits as we go through our own sufferings. He has shown through the many healings He has done that He is not numb to our sufferings. He has removed many crosses because of His love and compassion. But He cannot act unless we seek His help.
Indeed, there are people who receive healing and others who do not. There are many reasons why on the latter. Perhaps, it is lack of or half-hearted faith is one. Or it may be because the refinement process is not yet finished.
We can follow the lead of St. Paul, who sought God’s grace to survive the harsh realities of his mission. He was mocked, stoned, shipwrecked, tied up in chains. He suffered all kinds of human suffering and, perhaps, great anxiety all throughout his missionary life. Like him, we can never carry our own crosses, even with the most noble of intentions, on our own strength.
To help us through our suffering, we need God’s grace. For Jesus told St. Paul, ““My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).
When we can accept that our crosses are just too heavy for us to bear and know that we can rely on the grace of God, it allows us not just to bear it, but even be joyful and peaceful, knowing that we are not alone.
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