A Prophet’s Reward

13th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Jesus says, “Whoever receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward.” So what is a prophet’s reward? Being a prophet in this world is a kind of a mixed bag.

On the positive side, a prophets’ words and deeds and their role in working miracles can give great blessings and yield joyful fruits for both the preacher and the people. For instance, the Shunammite woman in our first reading repeatedly received the prophet Elisha into her home and to her table, and he was pleased to be so warmly welcomed. First, she was graced by the holy man’s words and presence, then she was blessed through the miracle he announced: “This time next year you will be fondling a baby son.” She was overjoyed at the birth of a son, and Elisha surely shared that joy. Those who heed the word of God are blessed to see its fruits.

On the other hand, on the negative side of the ledger, the prophets and their words were not always welcomed and received. In fact, they were usually met with hostility. The Letter to the Hebrews recalls how some of the prophets “endured mockery, scourging, even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, sawed in two, put to death at sword’s point; they went about in skins of sheep or goats, needy, afflicted, tormented.” Knowing this, is it worth it for a prophet to answer God’s call?

Well, consider what else belongs to the prophet’s reward: Consider the value of living a holy life with a clear conscience. There is a great peace in doing what is right that is unlike the spiritual disquiet of sin. Consider the value of a life doing good with holy purpose, helping to save others’ souls. A selfish life lacks deeper, greater meaning, and its emptiness is a terrible taste of what Hell is like forever. Consider the value of a life that will be remembered. Remembered by people on earth? Maybe, maybe not, beyond the people whose lives you bless— but certainly remembered by God, who will reward his faithful ones with the joy of Heaven, an everlasting reward beyond our imagining. And all along this way to Heaven, you will share in the personal, intimate, friendship of God.

Now Jesus says, “Whoever receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward” and “whoever receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man will receive a righteous man’s reward.” But where can we today find a prophet and righteous man to share in his reward? Long ago, Moses said, “A prophet like me will the Lord, your God, raise up for you from among your own kinsmen; to him you shall listen in all that he may say to you. Everyone who does not listen to that prophet will be cut off from the people.” Remembering this, when the crowds saw Jesus perform the miracle of the multiplication the loaves they said, “This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.” On one occasion, Jesus stated that the men of Nineveh “repented at the preaching of (the Prophet) Jonah; and there is something greater than Jonah here.” Then, after Jesus’ Ascension, St. Stephen the first martyr preached that the prophets had “previously announced the coming of the Righteous One…” and St. Ananias announced to Saul, who had encountered the Lord Jesus on the road to Damascus, “The God of our fathers has appointed you to know His will and to see the Righteous One.” Thus, the one who receives Jesus Christ will receive a prophet’s and righteous man’s reward. “And whoever gives only a cup of cold 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,” for Jesus says, “whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine you did it for me.

How can we receive the Lord? First of all, through the sacraments. Are you unaware that in baptism you were baptized into Christ? To quote St. Paul, “all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” And your baptism has led you here today, to receive him anew in the supreme gift of the Holy Eucharist, the Most Blessed Sacrament. (For some of you, you are blessed to be about to receive Jesus in this way for the very first time, and we’re all very happy for you.) In this sacrament Jesus Christ comes to visit and dine with you with you: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me.” And if we have prepared a place for him and welcome him to dwell, Jesus stays and remains with us. The good Shunammite woman prepared room for Elisha in the highest place of her home, upon the cool rooftop, and furnished it for him with a bed, table, chair, and lamp, so that he could comfortably stay. She converted and reorganized her house for her holy guest. Jesus expects the same of us; the conversion and dedication of our lives, our souls, our homes; for Jesus wishes to dwell with us.

Receiving Jesus Christ in the Eucharist is not a one and done event. Even returning to encounter him here again at Mass every Sunday – as we are rightly commanded to do – is not all that he desires of us or for us. Jesus says, “Whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me.” Following Jesus requires us to die to sin and offer loving sacrifices like himself. It’s often hard to live for Christ. Knowing this, is it worth it to answer his call?

Consider the value of living a holy life with a clear conscience, with the peace that come from doing what is right. Consider the value of a life doing good with holy purpose, helping to save others’ souls. Consider the value of a life that will be remembered by God and those whose lives you bless forever. And consider how Christ will reward you with Heaven, an unending joy beyond imagining, and share his personal, intimate, friendship with you all along your way there. Jesus says, “Whoever finds his life will lose it,” but “whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” And whoever truly receives our Lord Jesus Christ will receive the Christ’s reward.

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