2 Kings 4, 8-11 and 14-16
- I hear a story of a good deed in a faraway time and place. I
hear names that I will repeat with confidence, so that my listeners can hear the words, look over my shoulder and see and
believe for themselves. There is the prophet Elisha, his servant Gehazi, the
woman of Shunem (a northern border town).
- First of all, the woman is inspired to help the prophet. He’s
a stranger to the territory, but what she sees is a person in need: She urged him
to dine with her.
- The family shares all that it has with the prophet. He
returned to eat whenever he passed by. They reserved a room for him on the roof (an upper room). When he comes to us he can stay there. The room is fully furnished, with
a bed, table, chair and lamp. What
all does my family have in the line of possessions? And would I share even a
few of them in these times with a stranger, even a holy man of God? And would I know a holy man of God when I saw him? Which is
the true civilization, ours or theirs? Can I bring out the contrast in my reading?
- Central point: No one can outdo God in generosity. Can something be done for her? At first I speak from
my own heart, in empathy with the woman who has no children. Then I speak in
place of God, for whom everything is possible. Is it any wonder that I say naturally
the words This time next year you will be fondling a baby son?
- Message for our assembly: Are we surprised by anything we hear? Is this the God we have learned to believe in?
Hospitality was so inviolable in all the cultures of ancient times that God didn’t have to command it! Does it live on in our house? How do we measure up?
- I will challenge myself: to take the people back three millennia to
see where God is at work among the poor of Israel, and even among those who do not know God.
Romans 6, 3-4 and 8-11
- I hear the apostle asking a rhetorical question to the church: Are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? And I will make it the declaration it was meant to be.
- The apostle is building slowly and deliberately to his climax.
It is a passage from death to life, and both words are repeated over and over.
This repetition reminds us insistently, and I will build on them with my own rehearsed voice.
- There is a past that we have left behind as we embrace newness
of life. The change is radical in nature, irrevocable, as definitive as death.
That is what he means when he says we were buried with him through baptism into death.
- In him! With him! (Where do I hear those words in the liturgy?)
Again and again I make the connection between ourselves and Christ. We
don’t renounce our sinful past in a solitary way, but in Christ’s company.
Does someone in our assembly still doubt that Christ is present today? How
can my excited look and earnest confession before the church overcome every trace of doubt?
- The Climax comes in the final words, just as in the Vigil mass, Dead to sin and living for God in Christ Jesus.
- The message for our assembly: Baptism isn’t something that happened to us many years ago. And our renewals go much further than the words we affirm during the Easter vigil. We ratify it at moments such as this, as we orient our lives to God.
- I will challenge myself: To breathe new life into this old message for a church long disappeared, and to evoke the
radical change that has taken place in us.
Matthew 10, 37-42
- Whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. We are confronted with a volley of hard sayings today. Do
I really mean what I am saying about these stark choices? Or do I believe that
I am confronted with some typical Middle Eastern exaggerations? Well, for one
the Middle Easterners would find these sayings even more objectionable than we would, given their strong family ties.
- So I have decided to lay on the literal sense of the words and will not hold back. Whoever loves father or mother … son or daughter more than
me is not worthy of me. Of course I will leave it to the homilist to interpret
their meaning, but I don’t intend to leave the homilist an easy escape. The
words are in the Gospel today, and I don’t intend for anyone to forget that I spoke them.
- There are a number of sayings in this passage, so I will pause briefly between each of them. I especially will pause after the first group of really hard sayings, after the words whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
- The second set of sayings has to do with hospitality: Whoever
receives you, whoever receives a prophet, whoever receives a righteous man, whoever gives only a cup of cold water. Not everything we do has to be life-defining!
It can be as tiny an act as that.
- Previously this passage contained eighteen masculine singular pronouns! Thankfully
the revised lectionary reduced the number to four, reminding us that Jesus is speaking to everyone, inviting everyone to accept
- Central point: Every saying in this passage points to a way of living that is directed to others. I want to talk about this way of living.
- Message for our assembly: We are all called to this way of following Christ.
- I will challenge myself: To emphasize the upside of these harsh negatives. There
is a way that we become worthy of Jesus, a way that we find our life and have our reward.
The Sunamite woman in the first reading pointed the way.