Reflection for Sunday – July 2, 2017

Readings: 2 Kings 4:8-11, 14-16A; Romans 6:3-4, 8-11; Matthew 10:37-42
Preacher: Jeanne Mooney

In this week’s gospel from Matthew, Jesus continues to prepare his disciples for their mission of healing and preaching his message. He warns them that as his followers, sometimes they will be persecuted, hated, and beaten; at other times, they will find open hearts, open doors, even a drink of cold water. To fulfill their mission they must step far outside their comfort zone and take the risks that come with reaching out to a wide variety of people.

What happens to us when we reach out to the stranger? Jesus says, “Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.” (Mt 10:40) In the other, we find God. Essayist Heather King writes, “Christ reveals himself in the deeply messy, profoundly awkward world of face-to-face human interaction.” To follow Jesus, we need to peel the layers of our reluctance to connect in a meaningful way with the people on the margins of our lives, people who don’t fit into our usual day-to-day activities.

As disciples of Jesus, we are called to take the risky step of extending our loving attention and hospitality to all people we meet along the way, to welcome and include everyone. It’s easy to fall into the pattern of speaking with the same people at Mass, at the soccer game, or at the grocery store, but if we interact only with people with whom we are familiar, we risk becoming isolated and distant from the world around us. We lose the opportunity to encounter God in the uncomfortable moments outside of our social bubble.

NPR recently featured the story of a young engineer who began to feel trapped in the “perfect” routine of his high-tech job and lively friends. He reprogrammed his social media account, started attending random public events in his area, and met people he would have never seen or spoken to while following his “perfect” routine. Stepping outside his comfort zone changed his perception of the world, and ultimately changed him.

From the earliest days of his pontificate, Pope Francis has urged us to open the doors of our church and “Go out!” to the people we don’t notice, those who live at the edges of our usual routine: people who are hungry, lonely, or poor. The Pope writes, “Before all else, the Gospel invites us to respond to the God of love who saves us, to see God in others, and to go forth from ourselves to seek the good of others.” (Evangelii Gaudium 39) When we offer hospitality to those in need, we share more than our food: we are sharing the gift of God’s love that was given to us.

When we reach out to include others, our overtures won’t always be welcomed. We won’t always get the cup of cold water we hoped for. Even so, as Pope Francis recently told a group of visiting Canadian Bishops, “You’ve got to go out. And it’s going to be messy.” We are still called to loosen our grip on our routines, step away from the comfort of our family and friends, and join in God’s circle of prophets, righteous ones, and disciples.

Jeanne Mooney


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