2 Kgs. 4:8-11, 14-16aRom. 6:3-4, 8-11Mt. 10:37-42.
The first part of our Gospel actually gives the demands for martyrdom, because to follow Jesus means being ready to give up everything for him, including parents, family and property. Jesus himself gave up his divine status and all he had at the Father’s side to become one of us, to suffer, die and be buried. The disciple of Jesus is, therefore, also asked deny the self, take up the cross and follow him. The martyrs lost their life for Jesus and found eternal life. We Filipinos seem to be fearful of martyrdom, and yet the only saints we have are martyrs; Lorenzo Ruiz and Pedro Calungsod, who gave up their lives for the Catholic faith. In Iraq, many Catholic Chaldeans were beheaded by the ISIS; many more were made to lie face down in mass graves and killed with machine guns. In Marawi, we learnt that some were beheaded because they were Catholic Christians. In 1753-56 the moros roamed through northern Mindanao, Palawan, Mindoro and Masbate and burnt and looted the churches, razed the towns to ashes, killed many natives, captured to enslave many of them, and killed many OAR missionaries. We were obliged to build fortresses and learn warfare. These were martyrs who lost their properties and lives in the name of Jesus.
The second part of the Gospel talks about welcoming Jesus, and welcoming the prophet and the righteous one for the sake of Jesus. We see it exemplified in the first reading where we see the Shunemite lady welcome the prophet Elisha into her home. She was rewarded with the gift of fertility. The welcoming of strangers in the name of Jesus was greatly exemplified by religious Orders who opened their monasteries to pilgrims on the way to the Holy Land, giving them shelter, food and rest, all in the name of Jesus. Today in Europe, there are already hotels lining the road to Santiago de Compostela, to Fatima, to Lourdes, to Assisi etc. But there is the Christian spirit in these shelters, where pilgrims are offered cheaper yet good food and shelter, and other bits of information are offered to help the pilgrims. This was especially true in 2017 forthe many pilgrims who walked the road to Fatima during the centenary of the apparitions. Here in Manila, we should be able to practice this when devotees walk from Quiapo to Antipolo, maybe by handing out water or sandwich to pilgrims on the road.
“Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me.” I was already seventeen years priest when I was sent to a parish to substitute for eight months. What impressed me most was that many families would invite me to go to their house for breakfast, or lunch or dinner or just merienda. Since I had peptic ulcer and a delicate stomach, I had to decline all these invitations. When I mentioned the matter to an older priest, he told me that it was the belief of most Catholics in the province that when their priest comes into their home, they receive special blessings, all because of these words of Jesus: “Whoever receives you receives me…” Jesus also tells us that when we serve the poor and the needy we serve him, making us conscious of his bias for the lowly in our midst. These are the “little ones” mentioned at the end of our Gospel.
This Sunday, therefore, Mother Church reminds us of the demands of martyrdom, the charity for travelers who are far from home, and the care for the little ones in our midst. Let us expand our hearts to include as many needy children of God as possible.