Updated: Jul 8
Jesus does not ask so much from us, “only a cup of cold water.” I remember growing up in our poor village. Usually, it was a little rough to trek back from the primary school under the sun. We would be thirsty in the summer heat and mostly after having played a lot of soccer during school hours. Most times, our greatest need would be just a cup of cold water on arrival, but remember that fridges and freezers were not common in those days. That cup of cold water was for us a lifesaver then. Christ speaks of its significance in today’s gospel, and provides us with codes that highlight the spiritual significance of giving this cup of cold water:
Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me.
Whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.
Whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me.
Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it...
And whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink… amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward.
These form the “mission discourse” as presented in Matthew’s gospel. Jesus preempts the expectations of the disciples as they go into mission, notifying them that discipleship involves total detachment from every earthly relationship. We see in the followers of Jesus; Peter, Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, James, etc, each leaving their father, colleagues, and fishing nets to answer Jesus. In ancient Jewish times, fathers have decisive roles in their children, especially the sons, and in most cases will determine their career choices. For a young man leave father to follow Jesus is a huge departure from the norm. Jesus promises, “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life” (Matt. 19:29).
Scriptures demand that children obey and respect their parents. For instance, we read in Paul’s letter, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother—which is the first commandment with a promise— so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth” (Eph. 6:1-3). The commandment to honor one’s father and mother demonstrates the elevated role of parents as custodians and guardians of their children. Obedience to parents implies loving them unreservedly. Yet Christ commands, “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me.” Still, the Bible enjoins mothers to point their children to the way of God, pray for them, and help them model their faith and character in wisdom (Prov 1:8, 29:15). We read, “Train up children in the way they should go, even when they are old they will not turn from it” (Proverbs 22:6). The love between parents and children warrants that parents set the spiritual foundation for their children. Paul, references Timothy’s “sincere faith” as originating from his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice (2 Tim. 1:5). Hence, Christ invites us to a distinct love for God, not interrupted by any earthly relationship.
Currently, the media keeps flooding us with allegations against the president’s son, Hunter Biden, of tax evasion and filing a false tax return. Some have criticized the president directly, alleging a cover-up of his son’s misdemeanor. Our interest in this story is to highlight the relationship between the father and the son within the context of Christ’s statement. Also, one wonders what allegiance to the United States as the president means when juxtaposed with the father-son relationship. One of the presidential candidates of the Republican party, Nikki Haley proposed that President Joe Biden’s “love for his son” Hunter Biden was “greater than the love for his country.” Another Fox News co-host Ana Navarro claimed that Hunter Biden’s legal problems were a “story of a father’s love,” given President Joe Biden’s support, and that President Biden was “a father first, take it or leave it.” Why would Jesus say, “Whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me?” The answer is that choosing between God and a blood relative can be hard when we feel there’s conflict. But we do not have to cover up the sins of those we love. Rather, we should inspire them to appreciate God’s mercy and to grow in their love for God.
Consider the sacrifice that President Biden would be making should he distance himself from his son, especially if he committed any crime. Worse still, if he comes out to openly condemn him. The father’s blood is thick enough. To take up the cross to follow Jesus means that we must prioritize God’s voice over every other voice that speaks to us. It warrants seeking nothing other than God. In the cross of Jesus, we find the strength to live out such demands of the gospel because the cross brings out the true meaning of the sacrifice of Christ for us while we are still sinners.
The second part of the gospel teaches that hospitality can be an act of sacrifice. The first reading from the Book of Kings describes a singular act of hospitality done to the prophet Elisha by the woman of Shunem. Her hospitality flows from a heartfelt desire and care for the prophet with no strings attached. She offers shelter, food, and drink whereas, in the end, the prophet rewards her with a son from God. The message from the woman’s action shows how she leads her husband to an act of good work and how she places doing good for Elisha over the family’s convenience. This woman gives what could qualify as “a cup of cold water” to the man of God and receives her reward.
Christ invites us to consider giving “only a cup of water” to those around us. What is your cup of water? How prepared are you to give it? What if giving that cup of water conflicts with your family’s choice or pitches you against a loved one? Christ wants you to realize that many people are starving out there. Many persons are exposed to hunger and threats of homelessness. Many are lacking the basic needs and necessities of life. Do you seek to satisfy your family's needs before trying to help others? I visited a family once and it was unbelievable to witness the volume of toys that the kids in that house owned. The question is, why would your kids own such a scandalizing quantity of toys while several individuals only need “a cup of water” to survive -orphans, poor, abandoned kids?
Jesus wants us to give only a cup of water. Our cup of water is any help rendered to the “little ones” for the sake of Christ. The message today is that our love of God should be supreme, not that fathers or mothers should not love their children. The Christian approach is that if we love God sufficiently, then we should help our family and friends to discover God’s love. Our relationship with God is the most important. Therefore, loving God above anything else is key to inheriting eternal reward
Readings: 1st-2 Kgs. 4:8-11, 14-16; 2nd- Rom. 6:3-4; 8-11; Gospel- Matt. 10:37-42