Matthew wrote his gospel in a time of persecution. The disciples have often had the experience that, to remain faithful to Christ, they had to accept the breaking of ties with the people who matter most. The rabbis had made the decision to expel the Christians from the synagogues. They had ordered that those who adhered to the Christian faith be considered heretical, be disowned by their families.
The consequences of this exclusion were severe and painful, not only from the emotional point of view but also social and economic.
Jesus demands from the disciple the courage to remain without support, without protection and without material security for the sake of the gospel. Then, he continues with another request, even more dramatic: the willingness not only to lose it all but also to give up their lives.
The image of the cross refers to the inevitable consequences which come to those who want to live according to the dictates of the gospel.
Even if life will not be removed with martyrdom, they must give it in a constant and generous self-sacrifice.
In the second part of the passage a remarkable promise to those who welcome the preachers of the gospel is reported. “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes him who sent me.”
This is not just material hospitality, such as that offered by the woman of Shunem to Elisha, but the reception of the message. The rabbis said: “The envoy of a man is like the man himself.” In the disciple’s words resounds the voice of the Master and, through him, the Father’s.
It is at this point that the theme introduced by the first reading is resumed. Whoever receives the prophet, for the fact of being a prophet, will receive a prophet’s reward. Even a simple gesture of love as to offer a cup of cold water to a disciple will not remain unrewarded.
Not everyone has received from God the same qualities and the same gifts. However, in different ways, but with the same generosity, every true believer is called to give his or her contribution and support for those who dedicate themselves directly to the proclamation of the word of God.
Even before the material help, these persons need to hear that their efforts are appreciated by the brothers and sisters in the faith and that their message is assimilated.
This reception is to be revealed in a special way to those who have renounced having a home, to build a family, not to escape, to live isolated and far from the world but to belong to every family, to be fully available to Christ and the brothers and sisters.
Father Fernando Armellini SCJ
Translated by Father John Ledesma SDB
Abridged by Father Jijo Kandamkulathy CMF