Stern demands, glorious rewards

Stern demands, glorious rewards

13th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A (Mt 10:37-42)
July 2, 2017

By Fr. Sal Putzu, SDB

NO half-measures! Jesus makes extraordinary demands, “Whoever loves father or mother. . . son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” (Mt 10:37). He wants absolute and full allegiance to him, even in preference to the closest blood ties, and one’s very self. (See Mt 10:38 and Lk 14:27.)

Few, if any, past or contemporary spiritual leader ever dared to ask for so much. Jesus does, and the implications of his claim are not to be overlooked, for he demands an absolute allegiance which the Jews used to give to God alone.
No doubt, Jesus sets himself as the decisive factor. He is someone no other man can claim to be: he is the “Son of Man who will repay each man according to his conduct” (Mt 16:27).

That is why he also makes extraordinary promises – promises he intends to fulfill personally, for he alone has the power to do so. Identifying himself with “the least” of his disciples or any needy person, Jesus promises to reward even the tiniest sign of acceptance, respect or help given them for his sake.

We know that his “reward” is no less than eternal happiness: to be with him for ever in heaven (cf. Jn 14:3 and 17:24). No king nor kin could ever make such a promise, let alone fulfill it. Jesus did. He meant what he said. And he will do what he meant.
Practicing detachment from everything and everybody for Christ’s sake is to share in his death. Enjoying the reward he promises is to share in his Resurrection.

Over twenty centuries millions of believers staked the whole of their lives on his word. For love of him they overcame all allurements and all threats. Hundreds of thousands of martyrs preferred to die rather than disown him. Their life and especially their death was the best commentary and verification of his sentence: “Whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Mt 10:39).

Legion of others who did not die martyrs lived a life of daily martyrdom, spending all their energies, resources and opportunities by serving him in the least and neediest of their brothers and sisters. In the eyes of many foolish people, their lives were “wasted.” In the eyes of Christ, those “wasted lives” and “lost opportunities” were the most fruitful and worthy of an everlasting reward.

Now as then, Jesus challenges us, too, with his demands. He challenges us to set our priorities right. It is for us to respond, ready to lose everything else in order to find him. And in him we shall find everlasting life.