Thursday of Week 14 of Ordinary Time – Gospel

Commentary on Matthew 10:7-15

We continue the apostolic discourse of Jesus to his disciples. Jesus now instructs them on what they are to say and do. They are to proclaim that the kingship of God is close at hand. This, of course, is true because of the presence and work of Jesus. Jesus is himself the very embodiment of the Kingdom, he is the ultimate Kingdom person. The kingship of God is fully present in him. But it will also be present in the Twelve who will do the same things that Jesus is doing: curing the sick, raising the dead, healing lepers, liberating people from evil spirits. Later, we will see the apostles doing all these things in the Acts of the Apostles and the Church continues to do these things.

Today, all of us are called to proclaim the kingship, the lordship of God by our words, actions and lifestyle. The Church is still called to bring healing into people’s lives. We may not raise people literally from the dead, but there many who are virtually dead, though physically alive, and who need to be brought back to a fully human life.

Most of our societies today do not have lepers, but we have, in every society, people who are marginalised and pushed out to the fringes. They need to be reintegrated. There may be people in some places who are genuinely in the possession of evil spirits, but there are far more who are in the grip of more mundane demons such as nicotine, alcohol and other drugs, who are caught up in the materialism, consumerism, hedonism and sexism of our time. They too need to be liberated. Yes, there is a lot of work to be done – by each one of us in our own way and in accordance with our gifts and life situation.

Jesus also tells his disciples to travel light. They are not to charge for their service. They are not to find their security in the possession of material things, especially money. To increase their freedom, they should go around with the absolute minimum. In our lives, possessions, and our concern about them, can be very inhibiting.

Of course, what Jesus does expect is that each person working for the Kingdom has his needs looked after by those he serves. This is where his security lies: in being sure of a place to sleep and food to eat. In return, the missionary brings the Lord’s peace to any home that offers hospitality. This is a vision of a society which is hard to find in our own day, although it is lived in varying degrees of commitment by religious in the Catholic Church, and even by some followers of other religions like Hinduism and Buddhism.

St Teresa of Calcutta’s (Mother Teresa) Sisters come pretty close to the Gospel vision, as do the Little Sisters/Brothers of Charles de Foucauld. And that is really the meaning of the second half of today’s passage. St Teresa once said: “I do own things but they do not own me.” That is where she differed from so many of us.

Jesus expects the missionary to find a place to stay wherever he goes. And, once he finds one, he should stay there; he is not to be moving around looking for more desirable conditions. On the other hand, Jesus has hard words for those who refuse hospitality to his messengers. Shaking the dust from one’s feet was symbolical. The dust of any Gentile country was regarded as unclean. By implication, so was the dust of an inhospitable community:

…it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.

In the Middle East hospitality has always been important. Unfortunately, in our security-conscious urban Western world, it does not flourish. Largely, because of those unnecessary possessions which Jesus would liberate us from.

There are two things for us to reflect on today:

First, where is our security? Are we burdened down by the things we own? Are we owned by them? How free are we to live a fully Christian life as envisioned by the Gospel? How free are we to do the things that Jesus says we should be doing: bringing healing and wholeness into people’s lives?

Secondly, what kind of hospitality do we give to those – whoever they are – who are generously doing the Lord’s work? Or, if they are not Christians, who are doing the work of the Kingdom?

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