Thirteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time, June 28, 2020
The woman in this story starts out just being hospitable. Then she has spiritual insight, and recognizes a prophet. Then she enjoys the promise of a great gift.
The Bible has much to say about baptism, and what happens to us when we are baptized. Saint Paul gives the strongest interpretation possible.
In a world where family relationships trumped everything else, Jesus proposes a shocking alternative.
Our Liturgical Setting: This reading prepares the congregation to hear the day's gospel, Matthew 10:37-42, which you should read first. Notice that the first half of these sayings of Jesus are about the behavior of his disciples; the second half are about the behavior of others towards the disciples. It's one of those sayings that prompted the selection of today's first reading.
The Historical Situation: The traveler who enjoys hospitality in this story is identified as "a holy man of God" in the story. In fact he is a prophet. (As Reginald Fuller points out, that's what the author meant by "holy man", one who is a bearer of God's word.1) Pronounce his name "e LISH uh" with a short e in the first syllable and a short i in the second. To the careful listener, this will distinguish him from his mentor, the more famous prophet Elijah ("ee LYE juh"), of whom you can read in 1 Kings, starting at chapter 17. This is the most innocent of a series of miracle stories in 2 Kings, chapter 4, that establish Elisha's authority as a man of God.
Proclaiming It: Now this reading is a simple story. When proclaimed to the congregation, it should sound like a story. The elements of the story are quite ordinary: a frequent traveler, a kind but childless couple, hospitality, promise and hope. Tell it like you'd tell the story of how you met your spouse, or how you'd tell a serious story to a child.
The Theological Background: In prior chapters of Romans, Paul has established that God has given us Christ so that, by our relationship with Christ, we might enjoy God's favor. Now Paul is working out some of the implications of that. That Christ was raised from the dead means at least all of the following:
Proclaiming It: The letter to the Romans is full of vivid contrasts, and these paragraphs have that character in spades.
Extra! Each Sunday passage from Romans in context: Click here to see a table summarizing the readings from Romans from the 9th to the 24th Sundays of Ordinary Time, this year.
1 Preaching the Lectionary: The Word of God for the Church Today, Reginald H. Fuller. The Liturgical Press. 1984 (Revised Edition). pp. 139-141. See his treatment of all the day's readings at the link in the table below.
At an Easter Vigil, preparing to baptize, a priest plunges the paschal candle ("Christ, Our Light!") into the waters of baptism. The candle sinks and rises, suggesting Jesus' burial and resurrection. Saint Paul knew only baptism by immersion, where the symbolism is so strong that it led him to say:
Are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life.And if you know that the baptismal pool has, since at least Saint Cyprian (200-258), been called "the womb of mother church," then the plunging Christ candle is an even more fertile symbol. See here:
The photo atop this page is from the 2014 Easter Vigil at the parish of Mary, Mother of the Church, in LaCrosse, Wisconsin, U.S.A. Click here for a blog post about the ceremony.
This page updated May 5, 2020