Homily, Sunday - July 2, 2017

Mt 10:37-42   2 Kgs 4:8-11,14-16a   Rom 6:3-4,8-11

Focus: Through each and every human person, Christ can have a message for us; through each and every person, Christ can encounter us.

Function: Today’s gospel summons us to become attentive anew to this deeper reality.

Dear sisters and brothers in the Lord,

One graduation day in May, a mother rose early to go to the grocery store and buy fresh foods, in order to prepare them for her son’s open house later that day.  She rushed into the garage, and backed the car out of the driveway.  She had just put the car on the road to take off when she saw an elderly gentleman moving unsteadily along the sidewalk and then falling down.  She parked the car and ran into the house to get her husband, fearing that the man might be drunk and dangerous.

Together they lifted him to a sitting position, wiped his bleeding wounds and tried to get some information out of his confused speech.  Eventually they found out that he had Parkinson’s disease, was out on one of his daily long walks to keep his muscles working, but this morning he had grown weak. They wrapped him in blankets, called 911, and waited for the arrival of the medics.  By the time the emergency vehicle left, the mother had lost big part of her morning.  As she returned from the grocery store it was time to go to the graduation. Soon afterwards the first guests arrived at the home.  She had hardly anything prepared! She shared with the guests what had happened; and they helped out.  Everyone contributed something to the party; and it became a very nice one!

This mother loved her family; yet she had made a choice this morning to care for a person who needed immediate help.  By reaching out to the person in need, she did what Jesus himself had done so often during his public ministry.  She lost her precious time; and she gained precious help and a great open house, because everybody had helped, like in a genuine family community.  She gave and was rewarded by God with surprise blessings!

Whether we give out of our plenty—the woman at Shunem “was a woman of influence”—or out of our need—no parent has enough hours in the day—what matters is that we give generously.  And God rewards us with even much greater generosity. This is the core message of today’s first reading; today’s gospel brings it home to us as well.  In the reading, the recipient of generous help is the Prophet Elisha. In the gospel, Jesus speaks about rendering assistance to prophets and righteous persons.  In view are proclaimers of the word, itinerant preachers, who go from place to place and speak about God, or, in the early Christian communities, about Jesus, and who continue the work of Jesus.

We also hear the Lord’s word in the gospel: “Whoever receives you, receives me … Whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink …  He will surely not lose his reward.”  We never know:  In each and every human person Christ can come to us, speak to us, and call upon us to serve him.

St. Benedict makes this point very strongly in his Rule.  In the abbot and his teaching the monks hear Christ.  He can speak to them also in the other confreres.  If anything important is to be done in the monastery,” we read, “the abbot shall call the whole community … for counsel.”  Because “the Lord often reveals what is better to the younger.”  Even the youngest confrere can be a messenger of Christ.  Occasionally, a monk from another monastery may come to visit. Benedict says, the stranger “may … make some reasonable criticisms or observations.” The abbot should prudently consider these, he continues, for it is possible that the Lord guided him to the monastery for this very purpose.”  Christ can also speak through the criticism of a guest.  Through all people the Lord’s voice can come to us.

Benedict also speaks about encountering and serving Christ in others.  “Care of the sick,” he writes, must rank above and before all else.  The sick brethren should receive the best care and they should truly be served as Christ who said, ‘I was sick and you visited me.’  In our sick brothers and sisters we encounter Christ himself.

And Benedict says, When guests arrive, “they are to be welcomed as Christ who said, ‘I was a stranger and you welcomed me.’  Great care and concern, Benedict continues, are to be shown in receiving poor people and pilgrims because in them more particularly Christ is received.  The little people can easily be overlooked or appear to be a nuisance; therefore, Benedict emphasizes so clearly that in them Christ is being received even more than in others.

Dear sisters and brothers in the Lord, Through each and every human person, Christ can have a message for us; through each and every person, He can encounter us.  Today’s gospel summons us to become attentive anew to this deeper reality.

Even the simple demands of everyday life make it sometimes hard for us to live with this awareness; when it’s a matter of feeding an infant in the middle of the night; of going to one more ballgame with one of the kids; of helping with homework when one is already tired; in a monastic community of truly paying attention to the needs of one’s brother monks; etc., etc.  Yet, if we do so, if we in doing so take our cross upon ourselves, we will not go without a reward.

Fr. Thomas Leitner O.S.B.