Christ the King Catholic Church
A young couple invited their pastor, a monsignor, to their home for Sunday dinner. They were a little nervous because they had never had a priest, let alone a monsignor, to their home before. In preparation for his visit, they had had a long talk with their- five-year-old son, admonishing him to be on his very best behavior-.
The couple welcomed the monsignor warmly when he arrived and then they left their son to entertain him while they went into the kitchen to make the final preparations for the dinner. The priest made a comment about the good smells that were -c-0ming from the kitchen, and he -asked the little boy if he knew what they were having for dinner. The little boy quickly responded, "Goat." The priest was a little surprised and asked if he was certain that it was goat. "Oh, I'm sure," the little fellow answered. "Just this morning I heard mommy say to daddy, "Don't forget, we're having the old goat for dinner today!"
Hospitality. That's what the readings are about today. The word hospitality comes from the Latin word 'hospes' which means both visitor and stranger. Hospitality is the welcome that we give to the visitor or the stranger among us. The words hospital, hotel, hostel and hospice all find their root in the word 'hospes.'
In the first reading a woman extends hospitality to the prophet Elisha. Elisha was chosen by God to succeed the prophet Elijah. The woman of Shunem goes out of her way to make Elisha at home, and she receives a great reward for her hospitality. Elisha promised the woman that she would be given a child as a result of her hospitality.
Jesus, in today's Gospel, tells us that the welcome we give to others is the welcome we give to him. "Whoever receives you, receives me, and whoever receives me receives the One who sent me." "Whoever gives 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."
When we think about the message of the Gospel as a whole, we might look at everything that Jesus teaches us through the lens of hospitality, Living life as Jesus teaches us to live it, is an act of continual hospitality - openness to others.
We see this openness in the inner life of God as Father, Son and Spirit are eternally turned towards each other, receiving what the other gives and then, in tum, returning all that has been received. This total openness to the other is at the very
-essence of the divine nature. We were -each -created in the image and likeness of
God. We were created to be in relationship with others. We were created to be open to others. Before original sin, this way of living was natural to man and woman. After the fall from grace, what was once natural to humankind had to be restored super-naturally. To restore all things is why Jesus came into the world. He is the beginning of-a new creation - -a redeemed humanity.
Jesus lived his life with a radical openness to others. He was open to sharing his life with every person he met. He is open today to sharing his life with each and every one of us. There is a beautiful passage in the Book of Revelation (Rev. 3:20) in which Jesus says, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and he with me." The English painter, Holmai Hunt, depicted this scene from the Book of Revelation in a famous painting in which Jesus stands with a lantern knocking at the door of a cottage. Hunt was not only a painter, but a theologian as well, because if you look closely at the painting, there is no door knob on the outside of the door. It can only be opened from the inside. It can only be opened by us.
Jesus stands knocking at the door of our lives, ready to share life with us – if we allow him.
Because of our fallen nature, hospitality is a virtue that does not come naturally to us. Virtues are good habits that we learn and cultivate until they become second nature to us. Vices, on the other hand, are bad habits that we learn and cultivate until they, unfortunately, become second nature to us.
Fear can keep us from being truly hospitable. We might be afraid that we don't
Have anything worth sharing
We might be afraid that if we share ourselves with others, there won't be anything left for us.
We might be afraid that if I open myself to another person, I might be rejected.
We might be afraid that if we live our lives with our arms open wide to welcome others we might get hurt-.
But what is the alternative? To live life with our arms closed - never embracing, never reaching out, and never welcoming others into our lives? This is why racism is a sin. It closes us to others and sometimes to whole groups of people. It goes against the redeemed and restored nature we were given in baptism to live not only as friends, but as brothers and sisters to one another.
In last week's Gospel, as Jesus sent his Apostles out into the world, he sent them with the words, "Do not be afraid." Fear keeps us from living as Jesus calls us to live. Fear keeps us from practicing the virtue of hospitality. Fear keeps us from imitating the One who risked ·everything in order- to live as the Father-asked him to live, opening himself completely to the world.
In this Eucharist and in every Eucharist we have a wonderful example of hospitality, Jesus offers himself to us and shares his life with us and then sends us forth to do the same - to share our lives with one another.
May fear not keep us from extending hospitality to those whom God will send into outlives in this coming week. By practicing the hospitality people have entertained angels unaware - sometimes disguised as old goats!