This, the second major discourse of Matthew’s Gospel (Mt 10:1–42), is often referred to as the “Missionary Discourse.” It contains instructions from Jesus to his Twelve Apostles. The special focus of the current passage sets forth some of the difficulties the apostles can expect to encounter in their missionary endeavors.
1) Divisions and sufferings. Jesus warns his apostles that the kind of commitment required for a person to follow him can easily lead to divisions that reach even into one’s family members. Suffering is also part of the life of an apostle. Thus, an apostle of Jesus must be willing to “take up the cross” and follow him. This reference to “taking up the cross” implies embracing cruel and often unjust suffering. Crucifixion was a harsh punishment that was in existence at least 300 years before the time of Jesus. Of course, there is also a connection here to the way Jesus himself suffered and died. Real life is following Jesus authentically. This might cost one his or her physical life, but it will lead to a greater life than the one lost.
2) The grace of receiving. Many Theologians think that the reference to receiving Jesus as being equal to receiving God who sent him is the key point of this whole passage. Certainly, it is the Christological high point. An apostle, by being commissioned by Jesus, carries with him a presence of Jesus. Jesus is the earthly revelation of God. Therefore, to receive an apostle is, in effect, receiving God made manifest in and through Jesus. This interrelationship between apostle, Jesus, and God is sometimes referred to as “divine mutuality.” It is a favorite theme in John’s Gospel.
3) Rewards. Matthew clearly believes that God bestows rewards on those who believe the Gospel message and put it into practice. The final section of today’s Gospel combines receiving with rewards. There is no logical connection between a prophet, a righteous person, and one in need of a cup of cold water. These describe activities carried out by the apostles. The cost of being called by Jesus, and of being sent by him to engage in apostolic activity, is high. While it will involve suffering and divisions, it will also reap great rewards for the apostles.
We are called by the Lord to do great things in our lives. Let us resolve to follow Jesus no matter the personal cost. While we will have sufferings and persecutions Jesus will always be with us to loving guide us. Let us build our faith by studying Holy Scriptures, prayer and receiving the Eucharist most of all. If we remain faithful, we will become like the master of our souls and spread the gospel.
By Rev. Dcn. Joe Pasquella