Just a word… Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time…

Just a word… Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time… June 28, 2020

What are we to make of this Gospel today, in which Jesus seems to challenge the depth of our love of family members and implicitly commands us to take up our cross and follow him? His tone softens a bit as we hear Jesus speak of righteousness and the famous giving of a cup of cold water to one of the little ones. But overall, the message today isn’t warm and fuzzy, but requires some unpacking in order to understand.

Perhaps a clue to the meaning of the gospel lies in the first reading from the Book of Kings. Elisha, a prophet, frequents a town named Shunem, where he is invited to dine at the home of a person referred to as “a woman of influence.” Clearly, this unnamed woman herself has been influenced by this man of God. The invitation to dinner is repeated until finally the woman suggests to her husband that they prepare a guest room for Elisha to occupy whenever he is in town. Elisha accepts the woman’s hospitality, eventually gifting her with the news that she will bear a son within the year. One imagines that this couple has been hoping for that news for some time.

The mysterious woman of influence recognized that Elisha was of God, that he spoke for God, that he was a prophet. She hungered for his words and presence so much that she and her husband with her, re-organized their household to make room for Elisha and his teaching about God.

So it is with our gospel, which is not at all an admonition against placing too much importance on, or limiting our love of family; rather, it is a reminder to place God at the center of our lives. It is a prompt to remember in Whom we live and move and have our being, to give thanks to God for our lives and that of those we love, whose human love for us makes present God’s love for us.

This reorientation of our attention and affection by making greater room for God in our hearts, results in God’s love flowing more freely through us to others, to offering cups of cold water, as it were. As we become more hospitable to God, we naturally become more open to others, more welcoming in word and deed. When we receive the words of others, the Word of God just might slip in. When our hospitality makes God present to others, that blessing just might return to us. Consider the unnamed woman of Shunem; had she not welcomed Elisha, and thereby God, into her life, she might not have heard the words from the prophet… next year you will be fondling a son.

What words might God have for us? Perhaps a lesson from the unnamed woman is to pay attention to God’s words, and to practice hospitality, to pick up the cross particular to our lives, and to follow…

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