Reflection for the 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)
Rev. Fr. Bonnie Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.
Once upon a time, two firefighters were in a line waiting for their turn to grab lunch one summer afternoon at a fast food after a hectic assignment. Suddenly, the alarm in their van went off, signaling another emergency, meaning they had to leave immediately without lunch.
A couple who had just got their orders decided to offer their lunch to the firefighters for free as they left. At first, they declined the offer, but upon the insistence of the kind couple, they accepted and left immediately.
The couple went back to the line to purchase another lunch. When it was their turn to be served, the manager who saw them donate their lunch to the firefighters showed up and asked them to take whatever they wanted for free; they were pleasantly shocked!
You may have heard that one good turn deserves another; that is true. But beyond that, kindness can be infectious, especially when it flows through those with grateful hearts. Your little kindness to someone today can go a long way for you tomorrow.
The First Reading of this Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (2 Kings 4:8-11, 14-16a) tells us about the encounter of the Prophet Elisha and a woman at Shunem.
The influential woman identified Elisha as a prophet and decided to feed him whenever he passed through the city. This happened for some time, and later the woman convinced her husband to arrange a little room for the prophet where he could sleep over whenever he visited.
During one visit, Elisha thought about rewarding the woman’s kindness, so he asked Gehazi, his servant, what could be done for the woman, and he answered, “She has no son.” Inviting her over, the prophet promised her: “This time next year, you will be fondling a baby.” And it happened; Kindness begets blessings.
In the Gospel Reading (Matt. 10:37-42), our Lord Jesus Christ continues his missionary instructions to the Twelve Apostles. In this section, he talked about commitment to the missionary mandate above and beyond love for one’s family. Next, he likened the commitment to taking up the cross and following him.
In the next section, Jesus makes some statements with an organic link to the First Reading. He said:
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.
What is the Prophet’s Reward?
This is the fundamental question in our reflection today. The prophet’s reward is not something that we can name in material terms. Rather, it is a multidimensional reality we can discover through relevant scriptures and apply to our lives.
Recall that after the episode of the “righteous” wealthy man who walked away when Jesus asked him to sell everything and follow him, Peter asked the following question, “We have left everything to follow you! What then will be there for us?” (Matt. 19:27).
Responding, Jesus said to Peter, Jesus said that everyone who has left everything to follow him would receive a hundredfold and would inherit eternal life.
A hundredfold does not translate to the multiplication of the material things they already left behind; it simply means they would never lack what they need. Another way to put it is that they would be satisfied. Of course, you know that material things do not give satisfaction; true satisfaction comes from God.
The next and, indeed, the ultimate reward is eternal life. It is not much about what we get materially here on earth but where we spend our eternity. The key here is that kindness is a potent currency for eternal life. The Gospel of Luke (6:38) says,
Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.
How to Gain the Prophet’s Reward
The prophet’s reward does not just show up because you gave. It is not just about the hand that gives but the heart that cares. The following heart conditions are necessary to actualize true kindness.
Be Actively Compassionate: To be compassionate is to feel the pains and needs of others. Our compassion should be active, not passive. In several passages in the Gospels, we see our Lord Jesus Christ showing compassion and doing something.
Recall that Jesus felt compassion for the crowd and healed them (Matt. 14:14). He also felt compassion for the widow at Nain and raised her dead child (Luke 7:11-17). To be truly compassionate, you need to be selfless, which means thinking more about others.
Be Positively Intentional: Our kindness should flow out of purposeful commitment, not randomly or accidentally. Being intentional means that we should carry out kindness to add value to the life of others, for God’s sake. In Colossians (3:23), St. Paul says: And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men”.
Be Cheerful: St. Paul remarked in 2 Corinthians (9:7) that “each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” The cheerfulness in giving starts from the heart to the face.
Regrettably, some people give with attitude, in other words, as if circumstances forced them to give, not because they wanted to give in the first place. Such giving dispositions do not please God and have no rewards.
You may have heard that givers never lack; that is very true. St. Paul added in 2 Corinthians (9:10) that God, who supplies seeds to the sower and bread for food, will supply and multiply their seed for sowing and increase the harvest of their righteousness.
We are the extensions of God’s goodness. We need to shine the light of kindness around us, especially to those in need. It must be money or material thing. Everyone has something to give. It could be your time, prayer, kind word, listening ear, or even your smile.
As you move out today, look for your Elisha, who needs some leverage of kindness; remember that every good work will be remembered and rewarded; don’t miss out. God bless you.