On this Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, we are still in Chapter 10 of the Gospel of Matthew, a chapter where the evangelist reports the “missionary discourse” of Jesus, the discourse where Jesus gives His disciples the guidelines of the mission.
Today, we are at the end of the discourse (Mt 10:37-42), and the verses we read are divided into two parts.
In the first part, Jesus continues the same discourse of the verses we read last Sunday and speaks of the quality of life that missionaries must have so that their mission may be effective.
Last Sunday, we saw that the missionary is destined to encounter misunderstanding and rejection, but that he is called to endure this in a particular way, free from fear, secure in the relationship with the Father, who takes care of him.
Today we see what makes this freedom possible.
A disciple is a free man because he has lived a passage, an exodus.
He has passed from a mode of living of loving which is the natural one, marked by the necessity, by the need to save one’s life, a way of living and loving according to the Spirit. The way of living according to the Spirit is realized not by saving oneself, but by losing life in the gift of oneself for the other (Mt 10:39).
This is the real mission of the disciples, and if a disciple does not continually live this exodus, this passage, he has nothing more or different to say and to give than what people already have. His mission is useless. It is what Jesus means by saying that this person “is not worthy” (Mt 10:37,38) of Him.
The second part, instead (Mt 10:40-42), somehow sees ways a change of protagonists: the gaze shifts from the missionaries to those who will welcome them, because this too is not obvious.
The missionary, the witness, does his part, but that is not all. Then there is the responsibility and the freedom of those who are called to welcome their arrival and, therefore, to let themselves transform life.
In this regard, Jesus says essentially two things.
He says that welcoming signifies above all recognizing in the other a prophet, a righteous man (Mt 10:41), someone who has a true word for my life, and this means, precisely, a willingness to open oneself, to allow oneself to be turned upside down, to be transformed. Feeling oneself summoned to that very Paschal transition that makes disciples free persons.
And later He says that the welcome put into play an availability to service, help, and care.
Since the missionary is sent without anything (Mt 10:9-10), since he is not preoccupied with himself, he needs everything. He needs a glass of water, but that glass of water will be the sign of a radical availability to make room withing himself for the newness that breaks forth.
For this reason, welcoming the prophet and giving him a glass of water is not an easy thing, and the announcement that he brings often causes fatigue, division, shakes off dullness, is demanding. If it is not an easy thing to live the mission in the style of Jesus, it is not even easy to welcome those who have made this mission the meaning of their lives.
Perhaps just, for this reason, Jesus says that they will have the same reward (Mt 10:41).
Those who have done this will have welcomed, without knowing it, Jesus.
Jesus is always welcomed like this, hidden in the brother, in the stranger, in the poor.