These are the concluding words of the Missionary Discourse of Jesus, the second of his major speeches in the Gospel of Matthew. Jesus challenges the disciples, and us too, to put no other person before our faith in him. For Christians there are new family ties, which, though not undermining our love of those dear to us, give us a broader perspective and a considerable challenge.
The cross is mentioned for the first time in Matthew’s gospel, not the cross of Jesus, but the difficult burden that each one must bear in imitation of him. We are called to give our lives as Christ himself will give his life.
But the embrace of missionary discipleship offers us new joys. Those who offer a welcome to the disciples of Christ forge a relationship with Jesus, and with ‘the one who sent him’. Friendships are transformed and offer us a wider and everlasting scope. How we treat others in this life, particularly the ‘little ones’, will bring us close to Jesus and to the one who sent him.
The first reading tells us how the prophet Elisha, centuries before Christ, received generous hospitality from a woman of Shunem. Her kindness is rewarded in an extraordinary way.