Lectio Divina: Matthew 10:34-11:1
1) Opening prayer
God our Father,
Your light of truth
guides us to the way of Christ.
May all who follow Him
reject what is contrary to the gospel.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
2) Gospel Reading - Matthew 10:34-11:1
Jesus said to his Apostles: "Do not think that I have come to bring peace upon the earth. I have come to bring not peace but the sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and one's enemies will be those of his household. "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 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." When Jesus finished giving these commands to his Twelve disciples, he went away from that place to teach and to preach in their towns.
• In May of last year, the V Conference of Latin American Bishops, which was held in Aparecida in the north of Brazil, wrote a very important document on the theme: “Disciples and Missionaries of Jesus Christ, so that our peoples may have life”. The discourse of the mission of chapter 10 of the Gospel of Matthew offers much light in helping to carry out the mission as disciples and missionaries of Jesus Christ. The Gospel today presents to us the last part of this discourse of the mission.
• Matthew 10:34-36: I have not come to bring peace to the earth but the sword. Jesus always speaks of peace (Mt 5:9; Mk 9:50; Lk 1:79; 10:5; 19:38; 24:36; Jn 14:27; 16:33; 20:21, 26). How can we understand the statement in today’s Gospel which seems to say the contrary: “Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; no, I have not come to bring peace but the sword.” This affirmation does not mean that Jesus was in favor of division and the sword. No! Jesus wants neither the sword (Jn 18:11) nor division. He wants the union of all in truth (cf. Jn 17:17-23). At that time, the announcement of the truth that He, Jesus of Nazareth, was the Messiah became a reason of great division among the Jews. In the same family or community, some were in favor and others were radically contrary. In this sense the Good News of Jesus was truly a source of division, a “sign of contradiction” (Lk 2:34) or, as Jesus said, He was bringing the sword. In this way the other warning is understood: “I have come to set son against father, daughter against mother, daughter-in-law against mother-in-law; a person’s enemies will be the members of his own household”. In fact, that was what was happening in the families and in the communities: much division, much discussion, the consequence of the announcement of the Good News among the Jews of that time, because some accepted while others rejected. Today the same thing happens. Many times, when the Church renews itself, the appeal to the Good News becomes a ‘sign of contradiction’ and of division. People who for years have lived comfortably in their routine of Christian life do not want to allow themselves to be bothered by the ‘innovations’ of Vatican Council II. Disturbed by the changes, they used all their intelligence to find arguments in defense of their opinions and to condemn the changes, considering them contrary to what they thought was the true faith.
• Matthew 10:37: No one who prefers father or mother to Me is worthy of Me. Luke gives this same statement, but much more demanding. Literally he says, “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, his sons and brothers, his sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple” (Lk 14:26). How can this affirmation of Jesus be combined with the other one in which He says to observe the fourth commandment: love and honor father and mother? (Mk 7:10-12; Mt 19:19). (The Greek word used in Luke is μισέω, which has slightly different meaning than how hate is used in English. It’s usage means “to love less”, to denounce (comparatively) between the two. It does not carry the animosity we commonly associate with hate.) However, two observations: (1) The fundamental criterion on which Jesus insists always is this one: the Good News of God should be the supreme value of our life. In our life there can be no greater value. (2) The economic and social situation at the time of Jesus was such that the families were obliged to close themselves up in themselves. They no longer had the conditions to respect the obligations of human community living together as, for example, sharing, hospitality, invitation to a meal, and the acceptance of the excluded. This individualistic closing up in self, caused by the national and international situation, produced distortion: (1) It made life in community impossible (2) It limited the commandment “honor father and mother” exclusively to the small family nucleus and no longer to the larger family of the community (3) It prevented the full manifestation of the Good News of God, because if God is Father/Mother we are brothers and sisters of one another. And this truth should be expressed in the life of the community. A living and fraternal community is the mirror of the face of God. Living together without community is a mirror which disfigures the face of God. In this context, the request of Jesus, “to hate father and mother” means that the disciples should overcome the individualistic closing up of the small family on itself, and extend it to the community dimension, preferring to communal love to limiting it to familial love. Jesus Himself put into practice what He taught others. His family wanted to call Him to close Himself up in self. When they told Him, “Look, Your mother and Your brothers are outside and they are looking for You”, He answered: “Who is My mother, and who are My brothers?” Looking at the people around Him He said: “Behold, My mother and My brothers. Anyone who does the will of God is My brother, My sister and My mother” (Mk 3:32-35). He extends the family! This was and continues to be, even today for the small family, the only way to be able to keep and transmit the values which He believes.
• Matthew 10:38-39: The demands of the mission of the disciples. In these two verses, Jesus gives important and demanding advice: (a) To take up the cross and follow Jesus: Anyone who does not take his cross and follow in My footsteps is not worthy of Me. In order to perceive all the significance and importance of this first advice, keep in mind the witness of Saint Paul: “But as for me, it is not of the question that I should boast at all, except of the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom the world has been crucified to me and I to the world” (Gal 6:14). To carry the cross presupposes, even now, a radical drawing away from the sinful system which reigns in the world. (b) To have the courage to give one’s life: “Anyone who finds his life will lose it; anyone who loses his life for My sake will find it”. Only the one who in life has been capable of giving himself totally to others will feel fulfilled. This second piece of advice confirms the deepest human experience; the source of life is in the gift of life. In giving one receives. “If the grain of wheat does not die …” (Jn 12, 24).
• Matthew 10:40: The identification of the disciple with Jesus and with God Himself. This human experience of contribution and of the gift received has a clarification, a deepening: “Anyone who welcomes you welcomes Me: and anyone who welcomes Me welcomes the One who sent Me.” In the total gift of self, the disciple identifies himself with Jesus; there the encounter with God takes place, and God allows Himself to be found by the one who seeks Him.
• Matthew 10:41-42: The reward of the prophet, of the just and of the disciple. The discourse of the Mission ends with one sentence on reward: “Anyone who welcomes a prophet because he is a prophet will have a prophet’s reward; and anyone who welcomes an upright person because he is upright will have the reward of an upright person. If anyone gives so much as a cup of cold water to one of these little ones, because he is a disciple, then in truth I tell you, he will most certainly not go without reward”. In this statement the sequence is very meaningful: the prophet is recognized because of his mission as one sent by God. The upright person is recognized by his behavior, by his perfect way of observing the law of God. The disciple is recognized by no quality or mission, but simply by his social condition of being least among the people. The Kingdom is not made of great things. It is like a very big house which is constructed with small bricks. Anyone who despises the brick will have great difficulty in constructing the house. Even a glass of water serves as a brick for the construction of the Kingdom.
• Matthew 11:1: The end of the discourse of the mission. When Jesus had finished instructing His twelve disciples He moved from there to teach and preach in their towns. Now Jesus leaves to put into practice what He has taught. We will see this in chapters 11 and 12 of the Gospel of Matthew.
4) Personal questions
• To lose life in order to gain life. Have you had some experience of having felt rewarded for an act of donation or gratuity for others?
• He who welcomes you welcomes Me, and who welcomes Me, welcomes the One who sent Me. Stop and think about what Jesus says here: He and God Himself identify themselves with you.
5) Concluding Prayer
How blessed are those who live in Your house;
they shall praise You continually.
Blessed those who find their strength in You,
whose hearts are set on pilgrimage. (Ps 84:4-5)