|Readings:||2 Kings 4:8-11,14-16a
|Date:||June 28, 2020 Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A|
I have to admit that the opening verses of today's Gospel passage were never among my favorites. They always seemed to say that religion is more important than family. In the previous verses, Jesus tells his apostles that he had come to bring, not peace, but the sword, to set son against father, daughter against mother, and ones enemies will be those of his household. Sounds like a perfect description of what happens when your children become teenagers, doesn't it?
But as with alot of encounters with scripture gone sour, I was taking these few verses out of context: out of the context of who Jesus is and how important is his relationship to his father, out of the context of his commandment to love one another as he loves us, and of course out of the context of the whole of scripture which reveals a God who IS love.
As I read it now, especially in the context of those readings about the prophet Elisha and Paul's letter to the Romans, it takes on quite a different meaning. As a matter of fact I suggest that there are two main meanings we should pay attention to in today's readings. The first meaning that I suggest we need to hear from today's readings is discipleship has a cost, sometimes a significant cost. Paul uses the metaphor of death to describe the cost of discipleship – certainly the highest cost we can imagine paying for anything. In baptism we must die to ourselves that we might rise to new life in Christ. This cost of discipleship is not just some artificial bar that God or the Church puts up to make it hard for us. Jesus is simply describing the nature of discipleship. If discipleship is living as if Christ lives in us, then we must empty ourselves to make room for Christ. We must let die those self-centered, selfish parts of our self that keep Christ out.
The second meaning that I suggest we must hear from today's readings is thatJesus is not putting our relationship with him in competition with our other relationships. Quite the opposite. It is like the flight attendant telling those who are traveling with children that if the oxygen masks drop, the adult is to put their own mask on first. This is not because the children are not as important, but it is for the very safety of the children that the adult must look to his or her own mask first.
If we do not make our relationship with Christ our most important relationship we might not be able to care for the others in our lives, especially those who are the little ones, the people we might overlook without Christ living in us.
I would suggest that in these times of opening up our activities while the coronvirus is still very much present and deadly that these meanings are critical. They remind us that the cost of discipleship is high. It is something that requires effort and perseverance in the face of adversity. And this fasting from communal worship and receiving the sacraments calls us to focus on the fact that sacraments and Eucharist in particular call us to be connected to, and to care for, the people and the world around us because they are the Body of Christ along with us.
By emptying ourselves so that Christ might fill us, I pray that returning to our celebration of the sacraments will call us to embrace discipleship, as hard as it might be. And filled with Christ, we will increase our zeal to make sure that even these little ones have the cup of cold water they so desperately need.