• 100 Years at Epping
  • 100 Years at Epping
  • 100 Years at Epping
  • image
  • image
  • image
  • image
  • image
Friday, 30 June 2023 19:51

13th Week in Ordinary Time - Year A - 2023

Fr Elmer Ibarra 150 Best'Whoever welcomes me, welcomes the One who sent me'

In the 80s, there was a famous Protestant pastor in Manila named Ronald Remy. He was a very charismatic preacher. However, he made a stir one day when he declared publicly that he loved Jesus more than his wife. Well nowadays for us, it is not really an issue. However, his wife publicly announced that she wanted to separate from him because of that. Thank God though, the issue was settled and the pastor told his audience that it is the demand of the gospel.

The gospel for today tells us that Jesus is making that same demand to his apostles. He is demanding that they should love him more than their father or mother, their son or daughter and should take up their cross and follow him. The first reaction that we would most probably have is…woah!!! Could I really do that? Am I willing to give my life to Jesus?

Whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me 550In the Mediterranean culture, it is quite common that a certain band of men would have a sort of a “patron” and they would depend on him for support in all that they need. So here in the gospel, we can see that Jesus’ request is not really that unusual. He has promised that in whatever they do to their brothers and sisters no matter how small will be rewarded and yet the demand is that their loyalty to Jesus should be beyond question and should even exceed with whatever they’ll give to their parents and children, if they have some.

If we examine the life of the disciples, they have done exactly like that. This band of men that Jesus has chosen left everything to follow him. In the gospel, we have seen how the Lord called Peter, Andrew, James and John while they were fishing and mending their nets and they left everything to follow him. For James and John, they even left their father in the business of trading fish and followed Jesus. Peter definitely has a wife and some children and left them all in order to follow Jesus. We can also recall the calling of Matthew, the tax collector, a person who has enriched himself by cheating people’s taxes and collaborating with the Romans, and how he was surprised that he was being called to follow Jesus and left everything behind including his affluent lifestyle and followed Jesus. The same could also be said with the other disciples even though how they were called was not written in the gospels. But definitely, they had to make the sacrifice of not being with their parents, wife and children in order to be with Jesus.

After the death and resurrection of Jesus, the disciples didn’t go back to their old way of life, even though there was a point especially before Christ’s resurrection when they were thinking of doing that. They continued what Jesus had started. They built Christian communities, they had their own disciples and followers and they facilitated the growth of the early Church. And, when Jesus said that they would take up his cross, they did exactly that. They lived a life of persecution. They had to lead their own Christian churches to be strong and to withstand the ridicule of pagans and for some even giving up their lives for the sake of the Church. And all the disciples except for John, died a martyr’s death. Peter carried his own cross and was crucified upside down because he believed that he was not worthy to die the same way as Jesus. Andrew was believed to have also been crucified in an X-shaped cross. Bartholomew was believed to have been flayed alive before being beheaded. Thomas, according to tradition even went as far as India and was speared to death. John, even though he died of old age, also got his fair share of torture before being banished to the island of Patmos.

How about us? Are we also willing to do the same? Perhaps maybe not all of us would die a martyr’s death but we are all called to be witnesses to Christ and to bear his cross. We are called to give everything to Christ. We are called to love him more than anybody else. Is that scary and demanding of Christ? Not really, because even Jesus himself said, “How can you say you love God who you cannot see and can’t love your neighbour whom you can see?” Therefore, in order to love Jesus, we must love our father, mother, son, daughter, the stranger, the sick, the prisoner, the rejected, even our enemies.

And as Jesus said in today’s gospel, even if we only do the littlest thing, we will receive our reward. Let us work then to love our neighbour not because there’s a reward but because it is right to do so.