Save Yourself? When Losing is the Only Way to Win (Gospel Reflection)

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One of the best ways to enrich your experience at Sunday Mass is to pray the Mass Readings personally and to meditate on a Gospel reflection.

A great way of doing this is using the technique of Lectio Divina, a powerful method which we explain here. The following is the Sunday Gospel reading with a reflection that is especially aimed at youth.


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This week, Fr. Piccolo reflects on Matthew 10:37-42, the Gospel reading for the Thirteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time.

We hope that it serves you in your personal prayer and that it serves as a resource that you can share with your apostolate.


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Gospel of the 13th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Mt. 10: 37-42)

Jesus said to his apostles: “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and 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. Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me. 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. 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.”


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The Gospel of the Lord

Gospel Reflection:

“He who saves a life, saves the whole world” ~ from the Talmud

This was the phrase that the Jews engraved on the gold ring that was forged in secret as a gift for Oskar Schindler during the Nazi persecution (as is seen in the movie Schindler’s List). He was an entrepreneur who, moved by compassion, dedicated his life to saving Jews from a sure death. At the end of the movie, this man – who put his own life and even the lives of his family in jeopardy in order to save as many as possible from the horrors of the Nazis – is racked by guilt and cries for the time he failed, when he could have saved even more lives.

Perhaps every once in a while we should turn to ourselves and ask: could I have saved someone else’s life?

Today’s passage from the Gospel of Matthew records Jesus’ speech to the disciples as he sends them out as missionaries in everyday life. Yet every day we find ourselves caught up in the obsession to save ourselves and, distracted by this impulse, we are prevented from giving meaning to our existence.

Jesus invites the disciples to have the courage to lose control of their lives. This is the challenge of every mother who must give her life away in order to live. A mother is fruitful when she recognizes that the life inside her is not her own. A young mother told me that this is the reason that when a women discovers that she is pregnant, she experiences a flash of fear, fear of losing herself.

Our greatest temptation is to worry only about ourselves, especially when this temptation appears most reasonable and even good. I should take care of MY life, I should think about MY plans, MY career, or even perhaps MY spiritual path.

We are so obsessed with our own lives that we never actually start to live it!

Jesus is convinced rather that we only begin to live life fully when we are capable of losing it for someone else, but also when we are capable of losing someone. There are bonds that can suffocate us and prevent us from moving towards a full life: “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” Often these are bonds that are good in themselves, but that end up keeping us in a crib from which we never escape.

Maybe the thing that prevents young people today from getting married or taking up a vocational path is precisely the fear of losing one’s own life for someone else. They deceive themselves in thinking that by holding on to their lives, they will be happy, but in reality they condemn themselves to unhappiness and to life without true meaning. Precisely for this reason they often end up compulsively filling up their lives with anything and everything, and yet in reality this emptiness is bottomless and they will never feel truly fulfilled. This emptiness can never be filled, only given away.

Jesus combines the verb to lose through two examples: to receive someone and to give a drink.

Sometimes we are like empty houses, spacious houses where no one lives, wasted houses, sad houses where, little by little, the scent of closure accumulates. To receive means that I am no longer alone inside my life. Many times we condemn ourselves to loneliness by defending our personal space. A priest friend said to me, as religious sometimes we are more worried about the sounding of the bells that mark our days than we are about that that person for whom we live our days.

Sometimes we feel like what we have in our homes is inadequate or inappropriate, we think we have nothing to offer. Maybe it’s for this reason that Jesus specifies that that glass of water is for the little ones. I have met people that always seek out relationships from which they will receive something but never look around to see who is the most insignificant person. I ask myself what happened to that little glass of water. Yes, unfortunately sometimes our attitude towards life is one of only looking to receive something. We could spend our whole lives with the bottle full only to realize in the end that our stale water was no good to anyone.

Thus the cross we must take up every day is not the misfortune that befalls us, but the path that leads towards fulfillment: the cross is the Gospel, the Good News, the cross is the certainty of being loved for all time, the security of having been forgiven. For this reason, only the cross is truly liberating and only the logic of the cross allows us to escape our illusions so that we may truly begin to live for others. If we save even one life… this is the Gospel.

Questions for personal reflection:

  • For whom do I give my life?

  • What bonds prevent me from living fully?

About Fr. Gaetano Piccolo

Fr. Gaetano Piccolo has written 45 post in this blog.

A Jesuit priest, I am originaly from Napoli. I am now living in Rome and teaching philosophy at the Gregorian University.

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