13th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Today’s Gospel summarizes Jesus’ chapter-long discourse to his apostles as he sends them out to announce the Good News in his name. Two main points are stressed: that the true disciple of Christ must dedicate himself wholly to him, and that whoever is charitable and helpful to a disciple of Christ, will have his reward from God.
Jesus requires of his apostles total dedication to their calling. He gives some clear guidelines about the quality of love which he asks us to give to him. Our love for him must be greater than a the love we have for parents and children -that is, two of the most intimate and tender types of love. It is a demanding love indeed; one intimately bound up with a deep and lively faith.
Christ claims to be the first absolutely, and he does not tolerate not only relegation to the second position, not even competition for the top place. Jesus describes himself as the Absolute for Whom it is worth risking one’s life. He demands absolute allegiance to himself with complete disregard of any other possible claims by others, such as father, mother, etc. Jesus describes himself with assurance and in clear simple language as the true goal of life. The supreme goal of life cannot be anything but God. It is obvious that Jesus points to something beyond the external appearance of his person. This is why he can link eternal life or death with allegiance to himself.
A bit further in today’s Gospel, the Lord says that we are worthy of him only if we take up our crosses and follow him. [The term cross appears here for the first time in Matthew’s Gospel]. Being a Christian is a demanding honor. Christ’s dignity demands that his true follower must be willing to suffer for his name. He is making it crystal clear to his disciples, that following him loyally will be no easy road. They must be ready to face death itself for his sake.
In the meantime, the disciples will have to preach his message. Jesus now refers to those who will assist his apostles. The second part of today’s Gospel tells how Jesus expects his envoys to be accepted. God’s messengers were not always the most popular of men because they challenged the values of consciences of those who heard their preaching. Yet God expects us to receive them and promises a reward when we do this.
The motivation for the hospitality is the identification of the prophet-holy man with Jesus himself. The sent one is the sender. Granting hospitality and material aid to an apostle is the same as grating it to Jesus himself. His missionaries are his delegates, ultimately they are delegates of God himself, since they convey the message of God to mankind. This is why receiving the missionaries amounts to receiving Jesus and God.
Receiving the apostles is not restricted to just accepting their message, but includes accepting them as bearers of God’s message in their human condition, and, therefore, with their human needs. Not only that, they must know that God and Jesus are committed to those who help in supporting them. And whoever does the least of services (”a cup of water”) to any of his disciples, will certainly receive a greater reward.