A Cup of Water
by Rev. Jack Peterson, YA
Reprinted by Permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"
To Sunday Gospel Reflections Index
Matthew wrote to show that Christ
Messiah and fulfilled the Jewish prophecies.
"Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it."
"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 righteous will receive a righteous man's reward. And whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink because he is a disciple - amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward."
Today, the church celebrates the 13th Sunday in ordinary time. I am not a big fan of the use of the word “ordinary” to describe this moment in the church’s liturgical year. At a minimum, it informs us that we are not in the Advent, Christmas, Lent or Easter seasons. However, during “ordinary time,” we strive to allow the profound mysteries and abundant graces of Christ which we celebrate during Christmas and Easter seasons to penetrate the depths of our hearts, heal our brokenness and empower us to live Christlike lives. There is nothing ordinary about that reality.
St. Paul speaks succinctly of this extraordinary process in his letter to the Romans: “Just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life.”
I think that every one of us would like to live in newness of life. What does that look like?
First of all, it means that we begin to love God with all of our heart, mind, soul and strength … that is, every single ounce of our being. The goodness, truth, beauty and unity that is God demands a total response from his children. Our creator and redeemer desires not a good portion or even most of our heart, but, indeed, our whole heart.
We might find ourselves hesitating to give everything to God because we fear that we might not have much left over for other persons or pursuits. This is a faulty way of thinking. Does a husband with a deep and generous love for his wife have no love left to give to his children? Of course not! The more he loves his wife, the more love he has for his children. In a similar way, the more we love God, the more we will love our neighbor.
This is why Jesus can say in today’s Gospel, “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me … ” He is not in any way, shape or form discouraging us from loving our parents or our children. He is saying, “Love God first and watch your love for others blossom in ways beyond your comprehension.”
Second, living in newness of life means being set free from the deceptive and depressing chains of this world. Christ and his healing grace set us free from the shackles of greed and selfishness, free from the chains of anger and bitterness, free from a lack of purpose and direction, and free from the fear of failure and loneliness. Our precious Lord said to his followers, “If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (Jn 8:31). This freedom is only possible by God’s grace and it demands complete surrender. It is an extraordinary grace.
Third, our lives become directed upward and outward. We find ourselves looking for, seeking and rejoicing in God and his marvelous deeds. We expect God to do amazing things in the world around us and we see him working in small and large ways all day long. We find ourselves, as St. Paul describes, “living for God in Christ Jesus.”
As our hearts are transformed, we grow in our desire to proclaim God’s mighty deeds and participate in building his kingdom. We also take great joy in caring for and humbly serving others. While God asks us on occasion to do something extraordinary for our neighbor, the norm is simply to offer small acts of service with great love, “Whoever gives only a cup of water to one of these little ones to drink because the little one is a disciple — amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward.” A cup of water.
A few weeks ago, I found myself behind on some tasks that I needed to tackle for our office staff at Youth Apostles and for a consecrated summer workshop that I was going to direct the following week. One of my consecrated brothers graciously drove my car for a three hour trip which enabled me to address those tasks. It was an enormous gift to me. A cup of water.
Jesus greatly desires to flood our lives with living water and enable us to live in newness of life. This new life includes, but certainly is not limited to, growing in our love for God, being set free from a wide variety of shackles, and joyfully living our lives in an outward direction. Give someone a cup of water today.