Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
“To Receive a Prophets Reward”
Matthew 10: 37-42
By Rev. Jack R. Miller

A missionary went to an island to introduce Christianity. He spoke to the natives about such subjects as virtue, justice, and sin. His audience was unimpressed. In fact, he bored them. After months of failed efforts, he concluded it was time to cut his losses and head home.  The natives agreed. Since his ship would not arrive for months, the priest spent his remaining time translating the Gospels into their native language. When the work was finished he read to the inhabitants the scripture about the sufferings and death of Jesus.
 
The natives were overwhelmed. They asked him to read the passion chapters again. Finally, their chief said, "Why did you wait so long to tell us about a God who voluntarily suffers for us? You must not leave. Tell us more about this strange God who died for us." Soon the priest had to write for more missionaries to deal with his many converts. He had learned a valuable lesson, people are not attracted to Christianity by dry catechetical recitals but by the crucified Christ, who suffered and died for our sins, and rose again so we might have eternal life.
 
In today’s Gospel Jesus speaks of the sacrifice demanded of his disciples and the suffering they will endure for their faith.  Jesus clearly is not attacking family life; he is warning his disciples of the conflict and misunderstanding they will experience by proclaiming the word.  To be an authentic disciple of Jesus means embracing the suffering, humility, pain and selflessness of the cross; to be an authentic disciple of Jesus means taking on the role of prophet for the sake of the kingdom, no matter how unpopular that position can be; to be an authentic disciple of Jesus means welcoming and supporting other disciples who do the work of the Gospel. God calls every one of us to become a modern-day prophet: to proclaim his presence and spread his message of love.  Some are called to be witnesses of God's justice amid profound evil and hatred; others are called to be witnesses of his compassion and grace to those in pain and anguish; and many are called to the work of enabling others to be effective witnesses and ministers of God’s love.
 
The gift of faith opens our spirits to realize and accept our call to be God’s witnesses, prophets of hope, proclaiming for all to hear that salvation is ours, paid for by Jesus who suffered and died on the cross, and then rose again to conquer death and open the gates of paradise for all who believe.
 
As the priest learned on that far away island, as we must learn in this day and age, the most difficult part of imitating Jesus is the cross and what it stands for: unconditional forgiveness, the totally emptying of ourselves of our wants and needs for the sake of another, the spurning of safety and popular convention to do what is right and just.   
 
To “receive the prophet’s reward” is to seek out every opportunity, to use every talent with which we have been blessed, to devote every resource at our disposal to make the love of God a living reality in every life we touch. Committed disciples of Jesus possess the vision of faith and determination of hope to use anything; a cup of cold water, an encouraging word, a kind act, a small gift, and the moments we spend listening. Our smallest acts of compassion and generosity, our seemingly unnoticed offerings of affirmation and support, can enlighten minds and bring comfort to the soul of those who are lost and seek meaning and purpose in their empty lives.  We never know how much the small acts of charity we extend in Jesus’ name will affect another person's life.  As that missionary learned in a land far away, the same truth applies here in our own homes and community.  The shadow of the cross must fall across the disciples of Christ in their mission of faith.  Let us shoulder its weight and spread the good news for all to hear; Christ has died, Christ has risen, and Christ will
come again.
 
Amen?  Amen!