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

by Grace Liu
Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

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

Romans 6:3-4, 8-11

Matthew 10:37-42

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?