Matthew 10: 37-42
In chapter ten of his gospel, Matthew explains how Jesus extends the mission he received from the Father to his disciples. They will encounter the same hostility he has encountered, and they must be aware of the high cost as well as the rewards of discipleship.
In this Sunday’s gospel passage taken from the tenth chapter, Jesus tells us that his presence entails a crisis of ultimate choice and loyalty: father, mother, son, daughter or Jesus; discipleship without personal inconvenience or discipleship even if it means the cross; ultimate loyalty to one’s own self and to one’s own will or to Jesus.
Jesus then affirms and further illustrates the sacramental principle that underlies his entire mission to the world:
“Whoever receives you [a disciple] receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.” One may receive a prophet, an eminent person, or just an ordinary member of the church (“one of these little ones”).
Jesus in sharing our created humanity experienced what it means to receive at every moment the gift of life from God, our creator. Throughout his life, even to the moment of his death, he realized that only in giving himself totally to God in love is ultimate joy possible. The strongest and most pervasive temptation for every creature is to reject the truth of the first and great commandment: “I, the Lord, am your God . . . You shall not have other gods besides me” (Ex 20: 2-3). “Therefore, you shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart. . . “ (Dt 6:5).
Because Jesus is Emmanuel (“God is with us”), to give or to refuse him one’s ultimate love is to accept or to reject the first and great commandment. To give one’s ultimate love to any created being, even the most precious — father, mother, son, daughter, self — is to “have another god besides me.” Idolatry is to mistake the gift for the giver, to love the creature in preference to the creator.
Today Jesus extends his presence and his mission through his disciples, again entailing a crisis of decision. Perhaps it is not so difficult to understand in faith that one receives Christ in receiving those disciples who, by virtue of their office as bishops, are successors of the twelve. This Sunday’s gospel passage, however, also speaks of a disciple who is “one of these little ones” and is in need of a cup of cold water. Like Christ himself such a disciple may not be received as one sent by God. Jesus thereby alerts us to the profound implications of hospitality, even to the least of our brothers and sisters whom he sends as disciples into our lives.
Hospitality to a fellow human being—even giving a cup of cold water to someone who is thirsty—is inseparable from receiving Christ and the one who sends him to us.
Campion P. Gavaler, O.S.B.