13th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle A
Sunday Church at Home
during lockdown in the Coronavirus Pandemic
The lay leader makes the sign of the cross, saying:
Leader: ln the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
All reply: Amen
Leader: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
All reply: Blessed be God for ever
Leader: The common theme of today’s readings is the work God gives us to do as the followers of Jesus: to love God and our brothers and sisters through hospitality, generosity, commitment, and charity. The readings also remind us of the sacrifice demanded of Jesus’ disciples and the suffering they will endure for their Faith when they bear witness to him.
LITURGY OF THE WORD
First Reading: 2 Kings 4:8-11.14-16a
Introduction to the reading: Elisha, who lived about 800 years before Christ, succeeded the great prophet Elijah, and was noted for his miraculous deeds. Today we hear of one such deed performed in gratitude for the hospitality given to him and his servant Gehazi.
A reading from the Book of Kings
One day Elisha went on to Shunem, where a wealthy woman lived, who urged him to eat some food. So whenever he passed that way, he would turn in there to eat food. And she said to her husband, “Behold now, I perceive that this is a holy man of God, who is continually passing our way. Let us make a small roof chamber with walls, and put there for him a bed, a table, a chair, and a lamp, so that whenever he comes to us, he can go in there.” One day he came there, and he turned into the chamber and rested there. And he said to Gehazi his servant, “What is to be done for her?” Gehazi answered, “Well, she has no son, and her husband is old.” He said, “Call her.” And when he had called her, she stood in the doorway. And he said, “At this season, when the time comes round, you shall embrace a son.”
The Word of the Lord.
Responsorial psalm: Psalm 89:2-3.16-17.18-19
Let us now pray the Responsorial Psalm beginning and ending with the response:
R/: I will sing forever of your mercies, O Lord.
I will sing forever of your mercies, O Lord;
Through all ages my mouth will proclaim your fidelity.
I have declared your mercy is established forever;
Your fidelity stands firm as the heavens.
How blessed the people who know your praise,
who walk, O Lord, in the light of your face,
who find their joy every day in your name,
who make your justice their joyful acclaim.
For you are the glory of their strength;
by your favour it is that our might is exalted.
Behold, the Lord is our shield;
He is the Holy One of Israel, our king.
R/: I will sing forever of your mercies, O Lord.
Second reading: Romans 6:3-4.8-11
Introduction to the reading: In a previous section of his letter to the Romans, Paul taught that we sinners are reconciled to God through the death and resurrection of Jesus. Now Paul notes that we experience this dying and rising when, in the immersion form of baptism, we are symbolically “buried” in the water and emerge to new life.
A reading from the letter of Saint Paul to the Romans
Brethren: All of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him. For we know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. The death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
The Word of the Lord.
Alleluia, alleluia You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation; declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
Gospel: Matthew 10:37-42
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew
At that time: Jesus said to his apostles, “He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and he who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it. He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives him who sent me. He who receives a prophet because he is a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward, and he who receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward. And whoever gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he shall not lose his reward.”
The Gospel of the Lord.
Reflection on the Readings
The leader reads the text prepared by the priest and leads the sharing.
Hospitality is among the most ancient of human traditions. On the most basic level, it is about providing the essentials of life for another person, especially another person who is on a journey. Food, water and a roof over the head: the essentials.
The reward promised to the Shunamite woman who welcomed and gave hospitality to the prophet Elisha foreshadows the promise contained in the Gospel for those who ‘welcome a prophet because he is a prophet’.
There is a delightful humanity in the thoughtful provision the Shunamite woman made for Elisha: a small room on the roof of the house, containing not only a bed, but also a table, a chair, and even a lamp. These basic gestures of hospitality, offered simply out of respect for a man of God and with no thought of a reward, were to receive a wonderful reward: next year, she and her husband, childless up to this point, would rejoice in the gift of a son So too, according to the Gospel, even so simple a gift as a cup of cold water will not go unnoticed by God.
But hospitality is about more than just providing for the essentials of life for another person. The offering of hospitality brings two people closer, the guest and the host. Hospitality establishes a connection between the two.
Many of us contribute to charitable causes, especially those that aid the needy. As we give money, sign a check, or click “enter” to send a contribution electronically, we feel we have done our part to ease some of the world’s problems. But that’s not the same as what Jesus recommends in the Gospel when he says: “… whoever gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple – truly I say to you, he shall not lose his reward.”
Jesus is advocating for a true hands-on mission experience, a true human-to-human connection. He is saying, do not just send money while keeping the needy at arms’ length. Rather, get right in there and help God’s suffering children, even with your own two hands. “… whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones ….”
Just a cup of water: how ordinary! But a cup of cold water handed over personally to a person who is thirsting for it: that makes the act extraordinary! But why a cup of cold water? A cup of cold water seems like such a little thing. But it is not. Cold water was a rarity in Jesus’ culture. He did not have to add that word. He could have just said “a cup of water.” But he said, “a cup of cold water.” Most of us can get cold water whenever we want it. It’s as easy as taking ice cubes from the freezer. Some fridges even have cold water dispensers. At work places, schools, even at our parish, we’ve got water coolers, with cold water readily available. Sit down in a restaurant, and a glass of cold water is offered, with or without ice or a slice of lemon. Cold water is the one beverage you don’t have to pay for – and, usually, don’t even have to even ask for.
Yet, Jesus’ times are not our times. Getting a cup of cold water in Jesus’ day was not such an easy thing. Running water had not been invented. Nor had refrigeration. A household’s water supply came from the village well. It started out cool in the early morning when someone – usually one of the women or girls – walked down there with a clay jar, filled it, and came struggling back with it balanced on her head. She would place the water jar in a shady space inside the house – but even so, as the hours went by, it lost that cool, crisp, fresh-from-the-well taste. By late in the afternoon, the time most thirsty dinner guests were likely to arrive, you were lucky if room-temperature water was what you had left. At that time of day, a room in a first-century Palestinian house – with its thick walls – was just about at its hottest.
If someone brings a cup of cold water to one of “these little ones” – Jesus’ disciples, whom he’s sending out to do God’s extraordinary work in ordinary ways – it means she got up, ran to the well, and came back with fresh, cool water. A special trip, a special effort, would have been made, for a special person.
That is what the best hospitality is all about: making that extra effort, going that extra mile to make it just right. It is the act of kindness you didn’t have to do – nobody expected it – but you did it anyway. There’s a lesson, here, of reciprocity. The disciples are going out to share the greatest gift in the world, the good news of salvation. They will offer that gift for free. Some will throw it back in their faces. Others will accept it, but let it drop as soon as they move on – like those advertising leaflets we often accept at the robots, sidewalks or at the mall. Some will offer the disciples a drink from the water in the clay water jar filed much earlier on. But then, every once in a while, someone will offer the disciples a refreshing cup of cold water, fetched now from the well.
Few of us would be willing to do the latter: to go the extra mile? We are often satisfied with doing the bare minimum, giving according to ordinary standards of human values: “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.” You take care of me, I take care of you. You scratch my back, I scratch yours. You get what you deserve, we often say. A cup of ordinary water from the household jar: that’s all anyone’s entitled to (anyone but myself, that is!).
In our society, it sometimes seems that entitlement is going to be the death of us. Listen to the political debate: that’s all you hear. Whether it’s employee benefits, financial resources from the state, corporate welfare, subsidies, medical benefits, being bailed out of a monetary crisis, it’s often all about entitlement.
Cups of cold water aren’t so common today as we may think. They just may be as rare now as they were in Jesus’ time. Why? Because so few of us are willing to go the extra mile for another. Instead, we’re on the look-out for our benefits, what we think we’re entitled to. If we have a surplus (a few drops of cold water left over), then only will we give of our time, our resources, our prayers, our affection and compassion.
We often forget that all is grace. All is gift. Freely you have received, freely give. We all have a role to play in ensuring that no one lacks the free gifts God has given for all: life, dignity, respect, love, compassion, the basics of life … food, shelter, medical care. We know this because we’re Christians, and God has revealed to us our fundamental human dignity and equality. The fact the we have to be reminded of this is an indictment on us: that Black lives matter, that women are of equal dignity as men, that life begins at conception, that children are human beings too, that all Covid-19 infected persons deserve quality medical care… the list is endless.
We are all alike in our thirst. We are all alike in our need. And the only one who can quench that thirst is the one offers not just ordinary water, not just cold water – but living water forevermore: God. All you and I have to do is to give to little ones – whoever they may be – just a cup of cold water.
Questions for Reflection
- Reflecting on your journey of faith, was there someone who led you to the saving grace of Jesus Christ (through prayer, pastoral action, or ordinary human hospitality) when you were incapable of finding it yourself?
Have you shared your gratitude with/for that person?
Having experienced it in your life, are you sharing the hope of Christ with others in your life?
- In what ways can you reach out and offer hospitality and kindness to those around you, especially those most in need of our help.
- St Oscar Romero once said, “A religion of Sunday Masses but unjust week days does not please the Lord; a religion of much prayer but with hypocrisy in the heart is not Christian.” How is your practice of religion – is it a daily way of life of life, or a mere participation in ritual?
Prayer of the Faithful
Leader: Our God is a gracious and generous Lord. And so we bring our needs with great confidence.
We pray for the Church: (pause)
that she may experience a renewed movement of the Holy Spirit in the lives of all her members.
LORD, HEAR US.
We pray for our country: (pause)
that our leaders may wisely discern policies that will help bring justice and peace for all, especially for those on the margins of society during the coronavirus pandemic.
LORD, HEAR US.
We pray for the inspiration of the Holy Spirit: (pause)
that in all we do, we may exercise our vocation of hospitality, mindful that we are all God’s beloved children, worthy of being treated with dignity and respect.
LORD, HEAR US.
We pray for our parish: (pause)
that each member may feel welcomed in the Father’s house, and that the diversity of the parish members may be celebrated and not be a cause of division and discrimination.
LORD, HEAR US.
We pray for the suffering, the sick, the dying, and the lonely:(pause)
that they may feel the peace, healing and comfort of Jesus, as we reach out to them in love.
LORD, HEAR US.
We pray for all who are ill, particularly those with Covid-19: (pause) that God will free the world from the virus, heal those who are afflicted, and protect others from the disease.
LORD HEAR US
We pray for members of our families and friends who have died and those whose anniversaries occur about this time, especially for: Oscar de Andrade, Jean Dodds, Manuel Jardim, Joan O’Carroll and Madeleine Tingley
LORD HEAR US
We pray for Roger La Grange, Joe Cassingena, Barbara Roselaar, and all who have died this week, especially those with the Covid-19 virus.
Eternal rest grant unto them O Lord.
All: And let perpetual light shine on them.
May they rest in peace. Amen.
Leader: Let us pray our prayer for hospitality:
O God, give us eyes to see the deepest needs of people around us.
Give us hearts full of love for our neighbours
as well as for the strangers we meet.
Help us understand what it means to love others
as we love ourselves.
Teach us, O Lord, to care in a way
that strengthens those who are sick and gives them hope.
Fill us with generosity
so we feed the hungry, clothe the naked and give drink to the thirsty.
Let us be a healing balm to those who are weak, lonely and weary
by offering our kindness to them.
May we remember to listen, to smile, to offer a helping hand
each time the opportunity presents itself.
Give us hearts of courage
that we will be brave enough to risk loving our enemy.
Inspire us to go out of our way to include those in the margins.
Help us to be welcoming and inclusive to all who come to our door.
Let us be God’s hospitality in the world.
We ask this through Christ, our Lord. Amen.
We can unite ourselves to the Eucharist through making a spiritual Communion.
By making an Act of Spiritual Communion, we express our faith in Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist and ask him to unite himself with us.
I believe you are really here in the Blessed Sacrament.
I love you more than anything in the world, and I hunger to receive you.
But since I cannot receive Communion at this moment,
feed my soul at least spiritually.
I unite myself to you now as I do when I actually receive you.
Leader: Let us pray to the Father in the words Jesus our Saviour gave us:
All say: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.
Leader: O God, through the grace of adoption
You chose us to be children of light,
grant, we pray,
that we may not be wrapped in the darkness of error
but always be seen to stand in the bright light of truth.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
A leader who is a layperson, using no gesture, says:
Leader: May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil and bring us to everlasting life.