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. (MT 10:42)
Christ’s defining of discipleship is often difficult to understand or to accept. I read these opening words of Christ and I get confused:
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 me is not worthy of me. (MT 10: 35-38)
These are not easy words to accept or live fully even if they are the words of Christ, or are they? What really is the intention of Christ as he gives us these words? Remember Peter, Andrew, James and John. He called; they dropped everything and followed him. This is the level of commitment that Christ seems to be asking for when he says, “Follow me.”
The lives of the disciples are not meant to be easy. Remember Christ called the four fishermen away from their livelihood, family, and possessions and told them to follow him. They immediately did so without question or explanation. We don’t well understand this asking/demanding Christ.
When Christ references the cross I believe he is suggesting a path for response. Where would we be if Christ did not pick up his cross and pursue the wishes of his Father? Through our baptism we are linked to Jesus Christ just as the twelve become associates of Christ simply by his call.
Just as the fishermen followed his call, so too we are bonded to Christ in his death and descent through the pouring of the water in our baptism. As Christ descends we are joined to him in the depth of the baptismal water and we rise with him to new life. As Christ was free from sin and death so to we rise to new life in Christ.
Maybe this is difficult to comprehend, but giving the cup of cold water is not so difficult. We sometimes believe discipleship is difficult or too demanding, but the symbolism of the cup of cold water tells us that even a small act can be an act of goodness. We are the running streams that God’s mercy flows through, available to all.
In Jesus through Mary,
Father Denis Ryan, C.Ss.R.
Redemptorist Missionary of the Denver Province
Fr. Ryan is a Redemptorists priest assigned to Sacred Heart Parish in Seattle.