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The WORD. The TRUTH.

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It must be shocking for Jesus’ audience to hear the first verse of the gospel today (Mt 10:37-42): ‘Anyone who loves father or mother, son or daughter more than him is not worthy of him’. For in the ancient Mediterranean world, the family is considered the central social institution. It consists not only of the father and all his children but includes his married sons with their entire families, living together in one place. And considering the first cousin as an ideal marriage partner binds the already close-knit family together all the more with tighter bonds. With this kind of “our-family-against-everyone-else-mentality”, to sever all family ties, (as did the “prodigal son”, Lk 15), would mean a serious and life-threatening loss- loss of all of the family’s economic, religious, educational, and social connections.

This part of the gospel is considered the closing of the missionary discourse of Jesus (10: 1-42), where he underlines the conditions of discipleship (vv37f), and their corresponding reward (vv40f). But what does he mean about this seemingly counter-culture statement? Jesus does not forbid loving the family. Rather, he gave his followers more reason to love them beyond the call of blood relationship. He has set up what can be said as a “replacement” family, a new and much bigger gathering of people not linked by blood ties alone but by bonds of commitment to Jesus. And in exhorting further his disciples to follow him despite the consequences of leaving one’s own family, he reminded them about another basic social institution in their culture, namely, hospitality, (cf 1st reading).

The verb “dechomai” (δέχομαι) is translated as “receive” in the sense of the courtesy of welcoming people as guests. In the Bible, such hospitality provides safe passages for families (like Abraham’s, Gen 12), or groups (like Lot’s visitors, Gen 19; the Israelite spies in Rahab’s home, cf Heb 11:31, where the Greek verb is specifically used), through regions where they have no kinfolk. Jesus counts on this Middle East culture, a hospitality that is extended almost exclusively to total strangers. Thus, he exhorts new communities of followers to practice this toward each other to make up for the loss of family advantage. Whereas in their culture the reward for hospitality was largely the honor that accrued to one who extended it, Jesus connects this practice of welcoming among nonrelated believers to a reward that God himself will give (v 40). He even assures them that anyone who refuses to “receive” the members of the apostolic band would incur divine displeasure (Mk 6:11; Mt 10:14; Lk 9:5).

We are now all received, welcomed, and belonging truly to this universal family of followers of Jesus on which we can rely even more than what our own nuclear family could offer. But more than that we can count on the blessing God himself will give if we continue loving him more than anyone else and taking up our cross and following Jesus. Amen.

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Veritas Editorial

Rev. Fr. Anton CT Pascual

Rev. Fr. Anton CT Pascual

President of Radio Veritas

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