Year A 13th Sunday: Mt:10,32-39

10:32 ‘So if anyone declares himself for me in the presence of human beings,
I will declare myself for him in the presence of my Father in heaven.
10:33 But the one who disowns me in the presence of human beings,
I will disown in the presence of my Father in heaven.
10:34 Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth:
it is not peace I have come to bring, but a sword.
10:35 For I have come to set son against father,
daughter against mother, daughter-in-law against mother-in-law;
10:36 a person's enemies will be the members of his own household.
10:37 No one who prefers father or mother to me is worthy of me.
No one who prefers son or daughter to me is worthy of me.
10:38 Anyone who does not take his cross and follow in my footsteps
is not worthy of me.
10:39 Anyone who finds his life will lose it;
anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it.’

Jesus continues his Mission Speech to his disciples. Last week he urged his disciples not to fear. Now he announces that his good tiding will divide the people: those who agree with him and those who don’t; those who desire to live according to charity and forgiveness and those who don’t. This division will burst families and friendships. As it brought division into Jesus’ own society: most of the religious leaders of his day didn’t accept his message and the often ‘simple’ people did.
‘Keep in mind that my charity, my grace goes above all other virtues, even above the love for your family.’
There will be people who reject my way of life. If you follow my way of life they will persecute you too. They will try to get rid of you. That will be a cause of pain and suffering for you. Jesus invites his disciples to bear the pain; to choose his way of life (charity, forgiveness) even in such painful circumstances. He calls that his ‘cross’. That means that he does not deny the pain, or that he suggests that the suffering should be desirable. He means that love and forgiveness should be given priority especially in case of pain and suffering.

I am always amazed that Jesus, being a Jew, should have used the word ‘cross’: such a typical Roman cruel instrument of punishment. Did he foresee already that he would die on a cross? Or is it a sign that the cross took a very important place in the later announcement of the Gospel, and that it is inserted in Jesus’ words retroactively?
In the verses 35-36 Jesus quotes the prophet Micha (7:6). Of course the division between people is a lamentable thing. At difficult moments Jesus liked to quote a text from his Holy Books (our ‘Old Testament’). As if he says, ‘Even this bad thing doesn’t surpass God’s plans. It was already foreseen and framed in God’s history with his people.’
In the last verses of today we hear the famous paradox, ‘Who finds his life will lose it, who loses his life for my sake will find it.’ The Greek word ‘life’ is ‘psychè’ (cfr our word ‘psychology’), sometimes translated with ‘soul’. Meant is that ‘part’ or ‘spot’ of my person where my life is connected with God, with the (eternal) mystery of life.

Picture Meditation

In the centre I see Jesus crucified. The cross is planted in the ground as a sword. It brings division between the man in red and the woman in pink. The red figure is attached to Jesus, the other one distances herself. (Of course the role of the man and the woman could have been the other way around). Yet both figures are precisely framed in the circle around Jesus. Does the artist mean that not only agreeing with Jesus but also disagreeing with him belongs essentially to his discipleship?

I look at the expression on Jesus’ face. Is there a smile or at least contentment? Is the disciple’s attachment more sensitive to Jesus than the pain of the crucifixion? And what does the gesture of the man’s left hand mean? Is he receiving? Asking? Arguing? The artist doesn’t picture his right hand. It is somewhere behind the cross. Supporting it? Or even embracing it?

I try to give words to the expression of the man.
I try to do the same thing with the expression of the woman. Is she just walking away? Or do I see pain as well in her face?

Outside the circle I see people in all sorts of circumstances. On the left of the sword-cross: people who don’t seem to choose Jesus’ life. On the other side those who do.
In front of the king (top left) we see poor naked people (top right), beckoning and crying for help. Do I see the same division between bottom left and bottom right?

I try to find a figure with whom I can identify myself. I have a talk with him/her. Finally I have a talk with Jesus.

Meditation by Fr Dries van den Akker S.J