Lectio Divina: Matthew 10:7-15
1) Opening prayer
through the obedience of Jesus,
Your servant and Your Son,
You raised a fallen world.
Free us from sin
and bring us the joy that lasts for ever.
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 10:7-15
Jesus said to his Apostles: “As you go, make this proclamation: ‘The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, drive out demons. Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give. Do not take gold or silver or copper for your belts; no sack for the journey, or a second tunic, or sandals, or walking stick. The laborer deserves his keep. Whatever town or village you enter, look for a worthy person in it, and stay there until you leave. As you enter a house, wish it peace. If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; if not, let your peace return to you. Whoever will not receive you or listen to your words, go outside that house or town and shake the dust from your feet. Amen, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.”
• The Gospel today presents the second part of the sending out of the disciples. Yesterday we saw that Jesus insists on directing them first toward the lost sheep of Israel. Today, we see concrete instructions to carry out the mission.
• Matthew 10:7: The objective of the mission: to reveal the presence of the Kingdom. “Go and announce the Kingdom of Heaven is close at hand.” The principal objective is that of announcing that the Kingdom is close at hand. This is the novelty which Christ brings to us. For the other Jews there was still a long time before the coming of the Kingdom. It would have come only after they had done their own part. The coming of the Kingdom depended, according to them, on their effort. For the Pharisees, for example, the Kingdom would be attained only after the perfect observance of the Law. For the Essenes, when the country would have purified itself. But Jesus thinks in a different way. He has a different way of reading the facts of life. He says that the hour has already arrived (Mk 1:15). When He says that the Kingdom is close at hand or that the Kingdom is already among us, in our midst, He does not mean to say that the Kingdom is just arriving at that moment, but that it is already there, independently of the effort made by the people. What they all expected was already present among the people, gratuitously, but the people did not know it, nor perceive it (cf. Lk 17:21). Jesus is aware of this, because He sees reality with different eyes. He reveals and announces to the poor of His land this hidden presence of the Kingdom in our midst (Lk 4:18). It is the mustard seed which will receive the rain of His word and the warmth of His love.
• Matthew 10:8: The signs of the presence of the Kingdom: accept the excluded. How should the presence of the Kingdom be announced? Only through words and discourses? No! The signs of the presence of the Kingdom are above all concrete gestures or acts, done gratuitously: “Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out the devils. You received without charge; give without charge.” This means that the disciples should accept within the community those who have been excluded. This practice of solidarity both criticizes religion and society which exclude and proposes concrete solutions.
• Matthew 10:9-10: Do not take anything for the journey. Unlike other missionaries, the disciples of Jesus should not take anything: “Provide yourselves with no gold or silver, not even with coppers for your purses, with no haversack for the journey or a spare tunic or footwear or a staff, for the laborer deserves his keep.” This means that they have to trust in the hospitality of the people. The disciples who go without anything, taking only peace (Mk 10:13), show that they trust the people. It shows a trust in grace from God to act in people and to provide for them. It is certain that they will be welcomed, that they will be able to participate in the life and the work of the people of the place and that they will be able to survive with what they will receive in exchange, because the laborer deserves his keep. This means that the disciples should trust in sharing. It is also another way of respecting the poor, by not taking from them, and of contrasting the Good News with the laws of the time that demanded payment and tax for so many things. The social structure of the day was built on taking. Jesus builds a structure and community built on giving freely. By means of this practice they criticize the laws of exclusion and recover the ancient values of community life.
• Matthew 10:11-13: To share peace in the community. The disciples should not go from house to house, but should seek people of peace and remain in that house. That is, they should practice stability. Thus, through that new practice, they criticize the culture of accumulation which characterized the politics of the Roman Empire, and they announced a new model of living together. Once all these requirements were respected, the disciples could cry out: The Kingdom of God has arrived! To announce the Kingdom does not mean, in the first place, to teach truths and doctrine, but lead toward a new fraternal manner of living and of sharing starting from the Good News which Jesus has brought to us: God and Father and Mother of all men and women.
• Matthew 10:14-15: The severity of the menace. How is such a severe menace to be understood? Jesus has brought us something completely new. He has come to rescue the community values of the past: hospitality, sharing, communion around the table, acceptance of the excluded. That explains the severity toward those who reject the message, because they do not reject something new, but their own past, their own culture and wisdom! The objective of the pedagogy of Jesus is to dig out from the memory, to recover the wisdom of the people, to reconstruct the community, to renew the Covenant, to rebuild life.
4) Personal questions
• Today, how can we put into practice the recommendation not to take anything for the journey when going to a mission?
• Jesus orders His disciples to look for people of peace, so as to be able to remain in their house. Today, who would be a person of peace to whom to address oneself in the announcement of the Good News?
• Why would stability, as in not going from house to house while staying in a town, be important?
For further study
Most, if not all, monastic traditions include a vow of stability – to stay in one place. Take some time to read the ancient rules which guide our various communities, such as the Rule of St Benedict, St Albert, St Bruno, and so on. The authors of these rules often explain why a particular rule is made, and from where in the Gospel it is inspired. This can give insight into these instructions of Jesus and a historical perspective on the development of Christianity through the Middle Ages.
5) Concluding Prayer
God Sabaoth, come back, we pray,
look down from heaven and see,
visit this vine;
protect what Your own hand has planted. (Ps 80:14-15)