Abraham and Sarah were promised a son by God, and He delivered. Photo from Free Bible Images

God's Word on Sunday: No good deed will go unnoticed

  • June 30, 2023

13th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A) July 2 (2 Kings 4:8-12a, 14-16; Psalm 89; Romans 6:3-4, 8-11; Matthew 10:37-42)

Throughout the Old Testament, acts of hospitality and kindness were often the setting for miracles and the granting of divine favours. The most memorable example was the hospitality granted by Abraham to the three angelic visitors at Mamre. On that occasion, one of the visitors promised that when they returned Sarah would have a son.

The pattern was repeated in the encounter of Elisha with the Shunammite woman. Not only did she extend hospitality to Elisha, but she also provided permanent lodgings for him at her own expense. Echoing the angel at Mamre, Elisha promised the woman that she would soon have a son, and it was so. Later on in the story, her son died, and Elisha had to perform a second miracle — bringing him back to life.

This story and others in the life of Elisha should sound familiar: miraculous supplies of food, kindness towards the poor and helpless and the raising of the dead. The life of Jesus reflects in many respects the lives of both Elijah and Elisha, but on a higher plane. It is God’s story that is being played out throughout history in many times and places. This divine story continues to unfold today. No act of kindness is wasted, and it will eventually rebound on the giver.

We are seldom aware of the long-term consequences of our good deeds — they affect people we will never meet and sometimes those yet to be born. For every great event or spirit-filled personage in God’s history there are countless anonymous supporters, who make it all possible through their acts of generosity, mercy and kindness. They may never know — at least in this life — what part they have played. The woman in this story is nameless — as are many of the women in the Bible — but her name is known to God and her kindness will never be forgotten. We can pray that God will use us without consulting us.

Paul’s understanding of baptism is that it is a ritual death and resurrection with Christ. The past is gone, along with being controlled by sin. As Christ lives to God, so must we. This sounds wonderful, but not really in harmony with reality. Most cannot remember their own baptism because they were infants. It is possible to walk through life relatively unaffected by our baptism. As far as sin goes, it is alive and well in just about everyone. So, what can this vision of Paul possibly mean for us today? To experience fully the dying and rising with Christ in our lives we need to receive into our minds and hearts the grace that we have been given. We must “own” our baptism, embrace it and make it our inner compass. The seed has been sown, but we must reap the harvest.

Jesus uttered hard words in His call to discipleship. Jesus must be our first love, before love of parents, spouses, children or friends. This was not meant to show callousness or disrespect to any of them, but to focus on the one who is supremely important: Jesus Christ. Living in Christ and to God is a process of letting go and “dying” — in other words, allowing the growing awareness of the Lord within us to transform us.

Whatever we tenaciously cling to will hinder us in our journey to God. The only things we will take with us from this life are the love and kindness we have given and received and the wisdom that we have gained. Jesus is the image of the unseen God, and the one who welcomes Jesus also welcomes God. To know Jesus is to know God.

But the interesting and challenging part is the third link in this chain — us. If we have truly welcomed Christ into our hearts and walk according to His ways, then we reflect both Jesus and God the Father. Anyone encountering us should go away having some sense of the God who sent Jesus. Rather than wringing our hands over the sorry state of the world, it would be more helpful to focus on making the Lord more present and evident in each of us.