Sunday Sermon for June 28, 2020, the Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
Readings: 2 Kgs 4:8-11, 14-16a; Rom 6:3-4, 8-11; Mt 10:37-42
In the Gospel reading today our Lord tells us that “anyone who 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.” In the first reading we hear about a woman who received the Prophet Elisha, knowing him to be a holy man of God. The charity she demonstrated in offering Elisha dinner then, after some time, deciding to make a room for him so he could stay there any time he was passing by that way, was true and pure charity. In other words, she was not seeking anything for herself; she was only seeking to do something good for a holy man of God.
When we hear of our Lord speaking about the reward the persons who extend charity will receive, we understand that the prophet or the righteous man will pray for the individuals who have extended charity to them. Notice in the first reading that the woman did not ask a favor from Elisha; rather, Elisha, grateful for the charity given by this woman, asked if there was anything that could be done for her. When his servant tells him about the woman’s situation, the Prophet calls her and informs her she would be fondling a baby son within a year.
We know God will never be outdone in generosity. This woman’s kindness, while seeking nothing in return, was repaid in a way beyond anything she could have hoped for. At the same time, it was the fulfillment of the greatest longing of her heart. St. James reminds us that the prayer of a righteous man is powerful. The intercession of Elisha for this woman shows us just how powerful that prayer can be. Do we have confidence in the power of prayer?
This confidence should be bolstered by the fact that we are baptized into Jesus Christ, as St. Paul tells us in the second reading. He goes on to remind us that when we were baptized into the Lord, we were baptized into His death so that we may live in newness of life. This newness, St. Paul goes on to explain, is being dead to sin and living for God in Jesus Christ.
We have become a new creation in Christ. We are to be living our lives for God. Unfortunately, we live in a society that not only tells us to look out for number one (meaning our own self rather than God), but it rejects God. Beyond this, with all the medical and technological advancements, we now rely on professionals for many things that people have historically sought from God through prayer. All out modern conveniences can tempt us to think we do not need God and we do not need to pray.
However, as we saw above, if we are living for God, then prayer should be at the center of our lives. If for no other reason, and there are many reasons to pray, it is because our Lord tells us in the Gospel that “whoever who receives you receives Me, and whoever receives Me receives the One Who sent Me. If we want people to receive our Lord and His message of salvation, then we must preach Jesus and we must bring Jesus to others. Only by prayer can we be conformed to our Lord, and only when we are conformed to Him will people be able to see Him rather than seeing just us.
Since we become like those with whom we associate, the more time we spend with our Lord in prayer, the more we will become like Him. That likeness, however, will require being united with Jesus in His suffering and death. Our Lord tells us in the Gospel reading that “whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me.”
The willingness to take up our Cross is an act of charity that is even greater than the charity provided to the Prophet Elisha by the woman in the first reading. If done in charity, we would not be seeking anything in return from the Lord when we accept the Cross. Nonetheless, since God will not be outdone in generosity, the reward will be great. Why? Uniting ourselves to Jesus in prayer and through the Cross will conform us to the Lord, so that whoever receives us receives Christ, and whoever receives Jesus, receives the One Who sent Jesus. So, it is not a prophet or a righteous man being received, it is the Lord. Before we can bring Him to others, we must receive Him first. Having received Him we will receive the Lord’s reward: Himself now; eternal glory in the life to come.
Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.