Nowhere is Jesus’ honesty more vividly displayed than in the Gospel of today. He sets below the most uncompromising demand to be His followers:
a. Choice : Choosing between the closest ties of earth and loyalty to Jesus Christ.
b. Cross : Total dependency viz., surrender, submission and trust in the Saviour.
c. Adventure : A man finding his life and losing it with that of a man who lost and found it.
As Christians we are called to sacrifice our ambition, comfort, career, etc. to be His true followers. Christianity is the religion of the Cross and Jesus' command to be willing to take up one's cross to follow Him is repeated twice in each of the Synoptic Gospels (Mt 10:38 and 16:24; Mk 8:34 and 10:21; Lk 9:23 and 14:27).It was a rabbinic principle that "the representative of a person is like himself" (Mishnah: Ber., 5.5), and this is the principle that underlies verse 40.
It is true, we all can’t be prophets but he who gives God's messenger the simple gift of hospitality will receive no less a reward than the prophet. The same applies to the welcome meted out to a righteous person. Under the Sinai Covenant, a righteous person is one who is completely obedient to the Law. Jesus defined "righteousness" in the New Covenant in the Beatitudes and in the Sermon on the Mount. By "Little ones" Jesus refers to His disciples who serve the Father by announcing the coming of the kingdom and therefore the smallest kindness will not lose the reward of eternal life.
To be true followers of Christ, and become children of His covenant family, we must be willing to embrace suffering for the sake of the Kingdom, even if the price of faithfulness is martyrdom. Anyone who tries to preserve his life by denying Jesus will be condemned to eternal destruction, but anyone who is willing to lose his earthly life for Jesus' sake is promised the reward of everlasting life.
In the 1st reading we note that Elisha (who was not only a prophet but also a miracle worker) travels a great deal. Shunem was a town in the tribal lands of Issachar in the Jezreel Valley (Josh 19:18). Like the Gentile woman of Zarephath who shared her food and her home with Elijah, this woman generously offered Elisha her hospitality and then decided to offer him a room of his own in her house. These women are two of the many women in salvation history who opened their homes and gave their hospitality to God's representatives. Thankful for her generosity, Elisha promises that she would bear a child at the same season the following year for she was barren. She protests because it seems unbelievable. This is a true example of a prophet’s reward. It must be noted that the word of a prophet is not “his” word; it is the word of God! Thus the challenge is to take the word of God, meditate on it, and make it speak for today.
In the second reading, Paul uses the language and pictures that almost anyone of his day and generation would understand. The root meaning of the word "baptize" is "dip" or "immerse". Immersion was a common practice in the Old Covenant for ritual purification and for conversion viz., John’s immersion for repentance.
Christian immersion in the Baptism of Christ goes far beyond ritual symbolism. Supernatural sequence of events takes place, which images the life of Christ as under:
a. Original sin and all personal sins are forgiven through the cleansing waters of Baptism by the power of the Holy Spirit.
b. We are born "again" or "from above"; the Hebrew word onothan can mean either "again" or "from above" (Jn chp 3).
c. Our hearts are supernaturally "circumcised". By this, we are resurrected out of the waters of Baptism to a new life, fulfilling God's promise to make all things new through the New Covenant in Christ.
Thus, we died to one kind of life and born to another in the Holy Spirit.
Are you willing to lose your life to find it in Jesus Christ?