2Kings 4:8-11, 14-16; Psalm 89; Romans 6:3-4, 8-11; Matthew 10:37-42
We have four sets of homily notes here. Please scroll down the page.
Rev. Fr. Evaristus Okeke: Contribute to the support of your Pastors
Rev. Fr. Daniel Evbotokhai: Four Criteria for worthy Discipleship
Rev. Fr. Galadima Bitrus, OSA: THE JOY OF WELCOMING IN THE NAME OF GOD Towards a Theology of Hospitality
Rev. Fr. Paul K. Oredipe: GIVING AND RECEIVING LOVE
Fr. Evaristus Okeke
Contribute to the support of your Pastors
Life is sacred for it can only be created and redeemed by God himself. In the first reading of today and following, this truth was clearly buttressed. The miracle of God through the prophet Elisha will be best understood when we read the entire fourth chapter of the second book of the Kings. It contains four miracles of Elisha. Each of them is about the gift of life. The first was about a widow whose small jar of oil was multiplied so that she could make money from it to pay her debts and free her sons. The first reading of today is the first part of the second miracle. The second part of the miracle was the restoration to life when the boy died. The third was about the Poisoned Broth whose deadly content was neutralized. The fourth was the multiplication of Loaves.
A common denominator of each of these four miracles is that they were brought about by acts of kindness to the Prophets of God. Consequently, today’s liturgy reveals to us that we can attracts God’s blessings on ourselves not only when we pray for it but also by taking care of His ministers. The scripture is filled with examples of people who assisted in the proclamation of the gospel. Acts like these never escapes God’s notice. All of us are called to evangelize in our very condition of life. However, while God calls some into an active ministry, he calls others to provide for the welfare of the ministers.
When we reflectively read the first and the gospel reading, we come to understand how to go about caring for God’s ministers. First, the woman of Shunem recognized that Elisha was a prophet of God. She also observed that each day, he passes by her house doing his work. She must have imagined the sacrifices Elisha was making to fulfill this God-given task. She must have also reasoned that if Elisha is made more comfortable, he will be more resourceful. Thus, she dared to help. She may not be able to do what Elisha was doing but she could contribute to the productivity of Elisha. This is a clear case of a cheerful giver. She was not asked to help, she was not threatened to help, she was not deceived to help; she saw the need to help and she did helped. God loves a cheerful giver.
In the gospel, Jesus says that whoever receives a prophet or gives him a cup of water because he is a prophet, will receive a prophet’s reward. The prophet has no other reward other than the reward of God himself. The phrase “because he is a prophet” signifies something that is done to make the prophet more comfortable so that he may be more resourceful. It is the right of the people to be ministered to by their Priests. Likewise, it is the obligation of the people to minister to the needs of their priests. The sixth commandment of the Church asks that we contribute to the support of our pastors.
When the Lord was sending out the seventy two disciples, he ordered them not to take anything for the journey not because their needs will not arise but because the people are expected to provide for the disciples’ need. If the disciples were to cater for their needs themselves, their attention will be greatly divided. When a prophet’s attention is divided, the flock will be poorly fed.
Often times, we see people boast of the number of priests they are familiar with, of the number of priests’ contacts they have in their phones. But the question is can they equally boast of the number of priests they contribute to their welfare? Like the woman in today’s first reading, let us learn to take out time to observe our priests and see what they may be in need of. When they do not meet your expectations, first consider if they are fine. Priests are humans too. Again, let your gifts to them be as free as possible; it should not be a bait to selfishly get their attention.
Also, we contribute to the support of our priests not only by offering what is needed but also by not offering what is not needed. It is sad to say that some persons see their priests as candidates for exploitation, blackmail and topic for gossips. The mistake of a priests seem to get more attention than his good works. His good of today is forgotten tomorrow but his mistake of yesterday is forever remembered. Our priests who reconcile us to God also need our forgiveness and fraternal correction.
Beloved, the woman in today’s first reading was blessed because she brought joy to Elisha. If the joy of a priest is able to bring about blessings, so also is the persecution of a priest able to attract sorrow. The Lord warns in Ps.105:15 – “touch not my anointed and do my prophets no harm” for through their instrumentality, we experience the newness of life which St. Paul talked about in the second reading. You cannot destroy a ladder and still expect it to take you up. God Bless You!
Rev. Fr. Daniel Evbotokhai
FOUR CRITERIA FOR WORTHY DISCIPLESHIP
All the readings today present us with four basic criteria for worthy discipleship. Who is a disciple? The New Ratio no. 61 says a “disciple is one whom the Lord has called to stay with him, to follow him, and to become a missionary of the Gospel”. Every baptized Christian is called to stay with him, follow him and to witness to him. Therefore, Christians are Disciples of Christ. But Jesus Christ wants to understand that what he desires is worthy discipleship not mere discipleship. Therefore, according to today’s readings to be worthy disciples we must do the following:
1. We must love Jesus more than, parents and children: Jesus says in the gospel, “He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” Every disciple must endeavour to love Jesus more than parents and children. The bible says love God above all things; parts of this “things” are parents, children, self, and inheritance. We must love God above these things. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says in no.2232 that “Family ties are important but not absolute. Just as a child grows to maturity and human and spiritual autonomy, so his unique vocation which comes from God asserts itself more clearly and forcefully. Parents should respect this call and encourage their children to follow it. They must be convinced that the first vocation of the Christian is to follow Jesus.” A worthy disciple therefore must love God above all things.
2. We must take up our cross and follow him: Jesus says in the gospel “he who does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” Every disciple must learn to carry his cross, and follow him. Again, in Lk.14: 25–27 Jesus repeated the same thing, he says “…Whoever does not carry his own cross and follow me cannot be my disciple”. Therefore, ability to carry our cross and follow him qualifies us for worthy discipleship. Two things are implied in that very statement of Jesus: The cross and followership. It is not enough to follow him, we must still be able to carry our cross. Many of us follow him but don’t want to carry our cross. We like easy things and easy life. Heaven is good and no good thing comes easily. Let us not run away from the cross. Discipleship without the cross is a wrong ship. No one enters a wrong ship and arrives at the right destination. Again, we must follow him, today we have become too obsessed with leadership and not followership and that is why when our followers eventually become leaders they are confused as to what due process and policy is all about. A good leader was once led. We need to be good followers. If we follow very well then we shall not wallow.
3. We must be dead to sin: Paul says in the second reading, Rom.6:11, “you must also consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus”. On this statement of Christ, Pazhayampalli wrote: As one who is dead has nothing to do with earthly things, so one who is dead to sin has nothing to do with sin. To be dead to sin means that we should not respond to the appeals of sin. The dead body does not respond to anything, it does not respond to touches and the cry of dear ones and it does not respond to praises. Therefore, we must be dead to pride, avarice, lust, anger, jealousy and the likes. Death is a state from which no one returns to the old life. Therefore, we are not to return to our former lives after baptism.
4. We must do good: Jesus says in the gospel whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones… will be rewarded and he who receives you receives me. In the first reading, the Shunem woman received Elisha with all kindness and she was rewarded. Beloved in Christ, what is our attitude towards those who devote their lives to the gospel? When they come to us, do we receive them? Or we just begin to alter all sorts of words and gossip against them. All of us as disciples ought to receive one another and by so doing receive Christ. Have you not read the corporal work of mercy? Whatever you do to the least of these you do onto me. In fact, the generosity of the Shunem couple towards Elisha brought them the blessing and joy of their life and everything turned around for their good. And so Jesus says anyone who offers as little as a cup of cold water shall be rewarded. Beloved in Christ, do good, there is a reward. Beloved, be hospitable and welcoming and your life will turn around for good.
Fr Galadima Bitrus, OSA
THE JOY OF WELCOMING IN THE NAME OF GOD
Towards a Theology of Hospitality
Last Sunday, the liturgical readings reminded us about the need to overcome the fear of ridicule, rejection, or even outright persecution that comes with doing God’s will and living a divine purposed life. Today, the readings help us to understand that welcoming God and doing his will can also be a rewarding adventure!
In the 1st Reading (2 Kgs 4:8-16), we read of the hospitality which the wealthy woman of Shunem showed towards God’s holy man, Elisha. The Shunamite wealthy woman began by simply urging Elisha to stop and have a meal whenever he passed by (2 Kgs 4:9). As it became progressively clear to her that this regular passerby was a holy man of God, she became even more motivated, intense and regular in her show of hospitality: “And she said to her husband, ‘I am sure he is a holy man of God who comes this way regularly. Let us make a small roof chamber with walls, and put there for him a bed, a table, a chair, and a lamp so that whenever he comes to us, he can go in there’” (2 Kgs 4:10). This uncommon hospitality propelled the man of God to figure out how he can repay this woman’s goodness: “You have gone to all this trouble for us. What can we do for you?” (2 Kgs 4:12). The holy man of God proposed to connect her to the powerful of society, the political or military institutions: “Can we speak in your behalf to the king or to the army commander?” (2 Kgs 4:13b). Desiring none of these, she replied, “I live among my people” (2 Kgs 4:13c). Having gathered intelligence that she had no son (“The fact is,” said Gehazi, “she has no son, and her husband is old”, 2 Kgs 4:14), the holy man of God promised her one: “At this season next year, you will be embracing a son”: 2 Kgs 4:16a).
The example of the Shunamite wealthy woman calls on those who have in our society to recognize the image of God in the hungry and homeless of our communities, knowing that they, above all, are bearers of the divine image and divine recompense, hence, whatsoever we do to the least of our brothers and sisters, we do unto God (Mt 25:40) and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones will not lose their reward (Mt 10:42).
In the Gospel Reading (Mt 10:37-42), Jesus exhorts us to place the objects of our love in their proper place and perspective: “He who loves father or mother above me is not worthy of me, and he who loves son or daughter above me is not worthy of me” (Mt 10:37). As beautiful as our family relationships are, they cannot rank above our relationship with God. In the final analysis, children are God’s gift to their parents and parents are God’s gift to their children. It stands to reason, therefore, that we love first the giver and then the gift, not the other way round. To truly love those who are dear to us, in reality, we must first love God who first gave them to us. Only when our love is based on God who gave them to us is our love for them insured. For our parents or children can disappoint us to the point that we lose the capacity to love them except such love is rooted in what they are to us from the divine perspective: God’s gift.
The Gospel Reading also reiterates last Sunday’s theme, reminding us of the cost of living God’s will which we must be willing to bear if we truly love him: “whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever seeks his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will find it” (Mt 10:38-39). Thus, following God is a double-sided coin: on the one side are obstacles to overcome, and on the other, recompense.
The theme of hospitality which the first reading focuses on is taken up also in the Gospel. Jesus founds our sense of hospitality in God: “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me” (Mt 10:40). In other words, to welcome the disciple is tantamount to welcoming Jesus and welcoming Jesus is tantamount to welcoming God. The Old Testament prophets were considered messengers of God and came from God. Jesus too was considered a prophet coming from God. Jesus’ disciples were his messengers and, therefore, were ultimately messengers of God. They shared in Christ’s vocation. As the 2nd Reading (Rm 6:3-11) notes with regard to Christ’s death and resurrection: “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore, we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Rm 6:3-4).
Jesus, looking at his disciples, associates them with the Old Testament prophets, also referred to as righteous men of God (see 2 Kgs 4:9). Just as they were sent by God and were bearers of his reward, so too are the disciples of Jesus. Sent by Jesus, they are bearers of the divine word and the divine reward: “whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple – truly I tell you – none of these will lose their reward” (Mt 10:42). Jesus underscores here the fact that even a little gesture of hospitality shown in the name of God bears reward. He also points out the fact that even the most insignificant messenger of Jesus (little disciple) belongs to the company of the great holy men whom God has sent to become bearers of his word and reward.
When God visits men and men welcome God, great things happen: Abraham was blessed with the promise of a child when he welcomed the visiting agents of God (see Gen 18:1-5). His nephew, Lot, was saved from the destruction that befell Sodom and Gomorrah when he welcomed the visiting agents of God (see Gen 19:1-26). In the 1st Reading we saw the Shunamite wealthy woman blessed with a child when she welcomed the passerby holy man of God (see 2 Kgs 4:8-16). Thus, when a prophet, a holy man of God visits in the name of a prophet, that is, when God sends him, he brings God’s blessing/reward to those who welcome him. As Jesus puts it in the Gospel: “Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever welcomes a righteous man in the name of a righteous man will receive the reward of a righteous man” (Mt 10:41).
Our world is going through a great scarcity of love and hospitality. We have lost the capacity to see one another as a gift from God and bearers of God’s image and blessing. The source of our capacity for mutual love and acceptance must be deeper than our biological and anthropological relationships. It must arrive at the mysterious theological origins whereby we can see ourselves first as God’s gift to one another and bearers of God’s blessing, one to another. In a world now facing the dangerous combination of the collapse of medical-scientific certainty, economic meltdown, racial, religious and social tensions, we need to live with a deeper sense of solidarity, that solidarity that comes from the realization that we are God’s gift to one another and we can be a source of blessing to one another. Happy Sunday!
Rev. Fr. Paul K. Oredipe
GIVING AND RECEIVING LOVE
“He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and he who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it.”
In speaking these words, Jesus was neither exaggerating nor speaking literally. Rather He was engaging in poetic expressions to emphasize the kind of dedication He expected from those who followed him – then and now. Our Lord Jesus spells this cost out to all of us in very clear and certain terms. Some times the cost to following Jesus will cost us everything.
Discipleship is expensive. What cost Jesus His life, costs us ours. There is no such thing as “cheap grace.” Grace is free, but not cheap. When Jesus calls us, He calls us to our own death to selfishness and life to giving ourselves to Him completely. This is God’s Way, not an invention of man.
Our love for Jesus must be so real and true that our love for mother, father, sister, brother, wife, husband, and children, even our own lives must be compared to this love as to be contrasted to hatred. Yes, beloved, even our love for our own family and all other things must be considered secondary to our love for God, if our family calls us to abandon God’s will for our lives. We must love God first, then, our family must also obey the call of God with us. We can ask: how do you treat God – like a GOD or DOG ?
In the same way, Christ tells us the cost of following Him, not in abstract terms but in terms very close, concrete and relevant to our daily life. The point and idea is that priority and preferences in the Christian life must not be weakened by any conflict other tie, even those of family. Whenever any conflict arises, it is clear where the Christian allegiance must go.
What it really means is that if it came to the final crunch, we have to sacrifice everything, our closest relatives and friends, even our own life. When you come to think about it, that is precisely what thousands of men and women did over the centuries who died rather than deny their faith.
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. Matthew 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 happen, we should be quite clear in our mind and in heart about what Jesus says here.
Our Lord insists that we must put Him as our first preference. Why is this so? The answer lies in the eternal timescale of our destiny. Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, God said through the prophet. He is the origin of our being and our destiny. All our human relationships and activities must be seen within the context of our eternal vocation. Our earthly life may go on for threescore years and ten, as the psalm puts it, but we are called to live with God for ever.
So the principal purpose of this life must be to train ourselves so that we are fit for, and ready to accept, God’s invitation to eternity. “Anyone who does not take up his cross and follow in my footsteps is not worthy of me. Anyone who finds his life will lose it; anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it.”
There will come a moment, at our death, when we must make our definitive act of faith, when we must surrender our lives finally into God’s hands. This will mean a gracious letting-go of human ties and affections. We hope to be reunited with our loved ones and our friends in paradise, but how this will be is hidden in the mystery of God. What we must take hold of is Saint Paul’s affirmation: We believe that having died with Christ, we shall return to life with him.
Part of our training for heaven must be to develop some sense of spiritual detachment even from those people to whom we cling most strongly. This does not mean that we love them any less, but we must develop the ability to see the relationship in the context of our eternal vocation. When we ask ourselves, what is the most important thing in my life? The answer should be God.
This is the essence of discipleship – becoming a follower of Jesus Christ in ALL things. In the last analysis, it is a matter of keeping the proper hierarchy of charity: God must take priority over everything. There is no middle ground, even though there are many who would wishfully have us believe there is some middle ground that we may take with the devil and our Lord.
The gospel is not a call to any form of compromise but a challenge to a consistent and greater commitment to what we profess to believe in. Jesus is not calling us to be his admirers, much less his defenders. He invites us to be followers who are willing to take on the scandal of being born in a barn and the embarrassment of a cross. No half-hearted discipleship would do justice to the call of Jesus. The imitation of Christ must be total and complete and permanent. Jesus does not want ninety-nine percent but one hundred percent. His call is radical, without ‘if’ and ‘but’ without reserve and condition, but whole-hearted.
“There are two words used a great deal by Jesus in the Gospel. One is ‘Come’ and the other is ‘Go’. It’s no use coming unless you go, and it’s no use going unless you come.” We are not his disciples unless we follow Him. To follow Him means to put our hands in his hands, our steps in his steps. It is to take the same road and to stay on it. It is to let our fears fall away, putting our confidence and trust in Him. It is not an easy road. The Master did not hide this fact from his disciples. But He won sure victory and did promise final victory to those who stick it out to the very end.
When Jesus call us to come after Him, He calls us to follow Him to Calvary and to die with Him. This is not an invitation to be crucified as He was. It is not an invitation to physical martyrdom. Rather, it is an invitation to carry with love the daily cross of living and suffering, and more than anything else, an invitation to die to selfishness, pride, jealousy, anger, gossiping, tearing down reputations and all dissensions. These are the lusts that St. Paul talks about as always in opposition to the spirit.
Jesus has freed us from slavery to all such manifestations. But how do we claim this freedom and realize it in our everyday life. The only way is to be guided by nothing but LOVE, sincere love, selfless love, genuine love. And to know whether you have this love, just examine yourself against its major characteristics and manifestations.
St Paul gave us a great checklist. What he wrote to the ancient Church of Corinth still holds true for us today, even in our situation and circumstances:
“Love is always patient and kind; love is never jealous; love is not boastful or conceited; it is never rude and never seeks its own advantage, it does not take offence or store up grievances. Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but finds its joy in the truth. It is always ready to make allowance, to trust, to hope and to endure whatever comes. Love never comes to an end.” (1 Cor. 13: 4 – 8)
In the second part of the gospel – “Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me.” Jesus is reminding us that we can see Him in one another. If we offer kindness to another person, we are also responding to Him. Even giving a cup of cold water to a person in need is an action that can bring the kingdom closer. In practical terms, then, preparing for the kingdom is not only about self-examination and reflection and inner dispositions, but it is also about practical, everyday gestures.
“Anyone who welcomes a prophet because he is a prophet will have a prophet’s reward.” In the first reading we heard a description of simple hospitality, when the woman spotted how Elisha often passed their house and sensed his holiness. “Let us build him a small room on the roof, and put him a bed in it, and a table and chair and lamp; whenever he comes to us he can rest there.” The presence of the prophet was a rich blessing to the woman, having its origin in a simple act of kindness. Our Lord may have had exactly this story in mind when He said, “Anyone who welcomes a prophet because he is a prophet will have a prophet’s reward.”
Today’s readings, then, remind us to make good use of the opportunities that come our way to develop our spiritual sense. We should use simple, human opportunities to learn about and deepen our Christian life. When we feel utterly dependent on another human person we should make an act of attachment to God. When we see an opportunity to offer hospitality or comfort, then we should do so and remember that our Lord tells us that we do it for Him. Let us remember Matthew 25.
Even in our relationships we are expected to see God and serve God in them. This should be our best motive and ultimate reward. The example of Jesus is there for us, the examples of the saints and martyrs continue to inspire us. Come to think of it, after all, alive or dead, we belong to the Lord. God above all, God for all, and all for God.
May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the everlasting love of God the Father and the sweet fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.