Sunday, June 28, is the 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time. Mass readings: 2 Kings 4:8-11, 14-16; Psalm 89: 2-3, 16-19; Romans 6: 3-4, 8-11; Matthew 10:37-42.
Have you ever thought of yourself as a prophet? While Israel received an extraordinary grace in the era of the prophets several centuries before Christ, the prophetic charism is far from extinguished. One of the beautiful fruits of the Second Vatican Council was an emphasis on the sharing in the threefold office of Christ of every baptized Christian. Each of us receives the indwelling Trinity at baptism and the call to exercise our priestly, prophetic and kingly missions according to our own states in life.
When we read about Elisha in the Books of Kings, we readily recognize that he and his predecessor Elijah were prophets — boldly announcing the words of the Lord, fearlessly calling people to conversion, and even performing awesome signs.
In today’s first reading, we are shown an interestingly indirect yet effective way in which the woman of influence who welcomes Elisha to her home participates in his prophetic mission. She shows him gracious hospitality, not only providing him food for sustenance, but even furnishing a room for him to rest on his journeys. Astonishingly, her support of the prophet earns her a reward far beyond her expectation: She is blessed with the gift of a child. Earlier, as recorded in Genesis, Sarah likewise was promised a son by the mysterious guests to whom she and Abraham showed hospitality by the oak at Mamre.
These encounters wonderfully illustrate what Our Lord speaks in today’s Gospel: “Whoever receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward” (Matthew 10:41).
What is the prophetic vocation but the call to proclaim the word of life? This vital word is the good news that death has not triumphed and God is victorious, that as St. Paul wrote and proclaimed, “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” (Romans 6:4). This is the truth that fulfills all the prophecies of ancient Israel and that informs the prophetic call of every Christian.
The hospitality that serves bodily needs is an outward manifestation of the spiritual hospitality that is receptive and welcoming to the word to be proclaimed. Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me” (Matthew 10:40). When we welcome Jesus, we are literally receiving the Word made flesh, and this is the way we welcome the Father and the Spirit, as well.
Just like plunging into the waters of baptism, welcoming God’s word may seem to be a kind of death. This is the central paradox of Christianity: “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:39). When we welcome the life-giving Word, we will have to lose whatever is not truly life-giving. We may have to die to certain attitudes, thoughts and patterns of behavior, but this is death unto fuller life. When we exercise prophetic hospitality, welcoming the purifying and transforming Word of God into our lives, we will receive the prophet’s reward. This reward is nothing less than newness of life, a sharing in the very life of God, life that leads us, in the words of today’s Psalm, to sing the goodness of God forever!
Sister Mary Madeline Todd is a Dominican Sister of the St.
Cecilia Congregation in
Nashville. She received her
doctorate in sacred theology from the Angelicum in Rome and
currently teaches religion and philosophy at Mount de Sales Academy in Baltimore.