Qualities of a disciple – Are you a disciple Jesus defined in Matt 10:37-42?

Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

2 Kings 4:8-11,14-16A

One day Elisha came to Shunem, where there was a woman of influence, who urged him to dine with her. Afterward, whenever he passed by, he used to stop there to dine. So she said to her husband, "I know that Elisha is a holy man of God. Since he visits us often, let us arrange a little room on the roof and furnish it for him with a bed, table, chair, and lamp, so that when he comes to us he can stay there." Sometime later Elisha arrived and stayed in the room overnight. Later Elisha asked, "Can something be done for her?" His servant Gehazi answered, "Yes! She has no son, and her husband is getting on in years." Elisha said, "Call her." When the woman had been called and stood at the door, Elisha promised, "This time next year you will be fondling a baby son."

Romans 6:3-4, 8-11

Brothers and sisters: Are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life. If, then, we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him. We know that Christ, raised from the dead, dies no more; death no longer has power over him. As to his death, he died to sin once and for all; as to his life, he lives for God. Consequently, you too must think of yourselves as dead to sin and living for God in Christ Jesus.

Matthew 10:37-42

Jesus said to his apostles: "Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. "Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me. Whoever receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet's reward, and whoever receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man will receive a righteous man's reward. And whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink because the little one is a disciple— amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward."

Today’s readings matter a lot to us since they define the qualities of a disciple, but we have to expound the meaning of these qualities before we can confidently say we are the “defined disciple” in Matt 10:37-42.

2 Kings records the story of the Shunammite woman, who gives high regards to prophet Elisha, calls him a holy man of God, takes the initiative to invite him to dinner, and prepares him lodging to ease his tiring itineraries (2Kings 4:9, NABRE). Because of her devotion and persistence, she gains her reward: she is granted a son after her long barren years.

Besides being like the Shunammite woman, having faith in God, giving reverence to pastors, taking initiative and being persistent in charity, what other qualities should a “defined disciple” possess? Jesus in Matt 10:37-39 offers us an important guideline : “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (NABRE) Let’s see what Jesus means here.

To begin, family ties and worldly values surely pale before spiritual priorities, and Jesus has shed light on this: “What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? Or what can one give in exchange for his life” (Matt 16:26, NABRE)? A “defined disciple” cares for his / her family for sure, but his / her evangelizing mission is more compelling.

Next, a “defined disciple” has to take up his / her cross, which involves self-denial: “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me”, but what does self-denial mean (Matt 16:24, NABRE)? Well, self-denial means acting like Jesus, doing God’s will in spite of all odds.

Lastly, MK 8:35: “Whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it…(NABRE) clarifies what is said in Matt 10:37 because the evangelist has added the word ‘Gospel’, so a “defined disciple” who loses his or her life for the sake of the Gospel will be rewarded. Many commentators say to “find life” means finding spiritual life, while some say it means finding one’s true self. Undoubtedly, following the Lord and living out our call and mission can let us find our true self.

Jesus then goes on to talk about rewards: “Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me. Whoever receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever receives a righteous man because he is righteous will receive a righteous man’s reward. And whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink because he is a disciple—amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward” (Matt 10:40-42, NABRE).

Reward in Greek is a trading term; it means you will receive what you give. Jesus’ promise of rewards definitely gives encouragement and hope to the disciples: “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven…”(Matt 5:12, NABRE); “And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times more…”(Matt 19:29, NABRE). One important reminder is reward is purely God’s generosity, and we can only say: “We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do” (Luke 17:10, NABRE).

Prophets are God’s spokesman in the Old Testament, and Paul says: “Some people God has designated in the church to be, first, apostles; second, prophets; third, teachers…”, so prophets are people who evangelize, and evangelization is the mission of all Christians (1 Cor 12:28, NABRE). How can this come about? It is because in the resurrected Christ, we are driven by the Holy Spirit to fulfill the mission of prophets: “We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life”, and like the Shunammite woman’s son, we are newly created (Rom6:4, NABRE).

Prophet Micah defines a righteous man by saying: “Only to do justice and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God” (Mic 6:8, NABRE). To be righteous, Jesus wants us not only to keep the commandments, but to live out the spirit of the law; He asks the rich young man to give away worldly treasure (Matt19:21-30, NABRE); He makes us see only God will bandage and heal in the Good Samaritan (Lk 10:30-37, NABRE); He wants us to forgive instead of penalizing (Jn 8:3-11, NABRE); so a “defined disciple” is a righteous person who practices detachment, readily forgives, is merciful, and lives a fruitful life in the Lord.

Both Jesus’ disciples and Matthew’s community face great challenges in their missionary journey, so when Jesus says those who offer the disciples a cup of cold water would be rewarded, He wants people to be kind to his disciples, who need encouragement badly. Likewise, our Lord wants His disciples to be supportive to each other; a cup of cold water is the symbol of mutual support.

To sum up, qualities of a disciple include taking the initiative, being devoted and persistent, willing to take up one’s cross, doing God’s will, fulfilling the mission of a prophet, being righteous, and supportive to brothers and sisters in the missionary journey. Based on the messages of today’s readings, we can conclude if we are the “defined disciple” Jesus describes in Matt 10:37-42.

Something to take home
1.As a disciple, do you often hide in your comfort zone? Do you take the initiative and are persistent in evangelization? If you think you are incompetent, have you started to equip yourself such as joining a bible class? Many non-Catholics joined our parish activities, have you ever thought of sharing our faith with them?
2.If your family do not support your evangelizing activities, will you then give up spreading the Good News? Have you tried to change their way of thinking?
3.How would you understand “taking up the cross and deny oneself”?
4.How would you offer your brothers and sisters a cup of cold water?
5.Do you think Jesus’ reminder to the disciples in Matt 10:37-42 is warning or encouragement?

Posted: June 28, 2020

Grace Liu

 
作者阿信為天主教徒,香港聖神修院宗教學學士(夜間神學首間畢業生)。香港中文大學翻譯系碩士,羅馬傳信大學神學碩士(S.T.L.)。一直從事翻譯及英語教授工作, 曾為香港公教真理學會翻譯多本作品。著作有:「驀然回首 ─ 靈修之旅」(論盡神學出版社,2004年),「寄往天鄉的信」 (論盡神學出版社,2005年),「呵氣如蘭:舊約聖經硏讀及反省」(塔冷通心靈書舍出版,2010年) ,「上主的照拂•如蘭 – 香在無心處」(塔冷通心靈書舍出版, 2018年)。阿信現居溫哥華,致力推廣聖經閱讀,主要是向教友介紹釋經家對聖經的看法,在堂區主持聖言邂逅團體已近廿年,分別主持舊約及新約聖經課程。 Grace is a holder of Sacred Theology Licentiate, Pontifical Urban University of Rome. Bachelor of Religious Sciences & of Sacred Theology, Holy Spirit Seminary College of Theology & Philosophy (H.K.). Master of Translation, The Chinese University of Hong Kong. Grace has translated many works for the HK Catholic Truth Society and has been working as English tutor. She is the author of 4 books, one of which is on the reading and reflections of the Old Testament. Grace has been O.T and N.T instructor of the Encounter of the Word Bible group in her parish for over 20 years.


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