The Right Reward

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Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time 

Matthew 10:37-42

Jesus said to his Apostles: “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me. Whoever receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man will receive a righteous man’s reward. And whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink because the little one is a disciple—amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward.”

Opening Prayer: Today is your day, Lord, the Lord’s Day. I want to give you the gift of my smile today. I want to spend time with you today. I want to glorify you by the way I live this day. Help me to put aside my worries and busyness. Help me to enjoy your goodness and to help others enjoy it. Enlighten me with your wisdom and strengthen me with your grace. Blessed by your name, O Lord!

Encountering Christ:

    1. Priorities: A commitment to Jesus changes everything. A commitment to Jesus rearranges priorities and relationships. When we decide to follow Jesus, and each time we renew that decision, we are laying everything on the line. Only his Kingdom will last forever. And there is no guarantee that the other people in our lives will agree with our decision to live for that Kingdom. If they don’t, we will inevitably have conflicts with them. Those can be painful trials. But in the end, Jesus is faithful and our relationship with him–our obedience to his teachings and faithfulness to his call–is what will give lasting meaning to our lives. Even if those close to us–father, mother, son, daughter–do share our faith in Jesus and approve of our commitment to make his Kingdom the true goal of our living, the world around us will surely not. This is a fallen world inundated with evil. Our own human nature is also fallen and at times experiences a twisted attraction to evil. Whenever what is fallen within us and around us clashes with the newness of life in Christ, we have a cross: “Whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me.” Jesus was clear about the cost and difficulties of being his disciple. But he was also clear about where following him leads— with Christ, every crucifixion comes to and and opens the door to a resurrection that will never end. When we commit to Christ, that is what we are looking forward to: the painful loss of all that is fallen and the joyful gain of all that is redeemed. That deal is well worth it. 
    2. Jesus Is Closer Than We Think: Jesus is so faithful to his followers that he actually identifies himself with them. This is why he promises that the way we treat his followers– whether a prophet, a righteous man, a disciple, or even a “little one”–is the way we treat him. When we treat them lovingly and respectfully, we show our reverence for Christ himself, and so we “will surely not lose” our reward. This is a promise from the Lord himself. When was the last time I thought about this promise? How does this promise affect the way I treat Christ’s messengers? Spiritual writers tell us that one of the signs of the Holy Spirit’s gift of piety is a genuine respect and appreciation for Christ’s messengers—especially consecrated souls, priests, and others who give their lives to Christ and his Kingdom with particular intensity. God calls some people to serve him and his Church in these special ways, and our faith-filled respect for them is a manifestation of our respect and admiration for Christ himself. In a word of comm-boxes and Twitter-feeds, it is easy to lose sight of this. Respect and reverence are not favorite categories in the digital world. And yet, they are clearly categories Jesus values deeply. How does my heart reflect his heart in this regard? How would I like it to? How would he like it to? 
    3. Are Rewards Selfish?: Jesus spoke often about rewards. In today’s Gospel passage he mentions the word three times. Is he appealing to our selfishness? After all, if we do what is right just to get a reward, isn’t that being kind of self-centered? Sometimes we can think so. But Jesus doesn’t seem to think so. If he did, he wouldn’t have talked about rewards so often. The truth is that we were created to experience the fulfillment and joy that come from living in communion with God. We are built with a strong desire for happiness, for true, lasting happiness. This desire is actually an essential part of the engine of our lives. It keeps us going. It motivates us and gives us energy. Whenever Jesus speaks about rewards he is appealing to a natural, healthy desire for fulfillment that he built into our human nature. It is not selfish to want to experience fulfillment. It is not selfish to do what is right because we know that it will lead us further along the path of a meaningful and fruitful life, and moving forward on that path will feel good. That is not selfishness; rather, it is hope. We are called by God to hope for all good things in him. Hope for fulfillment and joy in Christ is part of our Christian DNA—just as much a part of it as the cross. Jesus wants us to cultivate it and nourish it. He delights when we enjoy the good gifts of God and make choices that create more space for us and others to continue enjoying those gifts. Let us hope in Christ. Let us relish the thought of the rewards he has in store for those who trust and obey him.


Conversing with Christ: Your every word, Lord, seems to challenge and inspire me. I want to follow you, and I am willing to take up my cross. I want to follow you, and so I am willing to leave behind anyone who would obstruct me from doing so, as painful as it may be. I want to follow you, and so I want to treat all your messengers generously and respectfully. I want to give you the joy of giving me the reward you have in store for me, the reward you purchased with your own blood on the Cross. May your will, O Lord, be my food and my joy!

Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will make an act of generosity–even if it is small as giving someone a cup of cold water–toward one of Christ’s messengers out of love for Christ and his Kingdom. And I will try to do it with a smile.

For Further Reflection: Spiritual Smoothie: Why Do Sundays Matter? 

Written by Fr. John Bartunek, LC.

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