Way back “in the olden days” when I was young and in elementary school, we always went from the city to my grandmother’s cottage in sunny seaside Scituate for a good part of the summer. Our first cousins and also my brothers and sisters in various configurations of age groups would be there for most of the summer. All the time we were there, lots of relatives and friends would also come to visit for the day and sometimes for the weekends. Even though at times it was very crowded and quite noisy, it was never too crowded or too noisy because loved ones were all there.
The welcoming was a highly developed art of my grandmother. Her sense of hospitality was quite wide and deep. Whatever she had was always to be shared with whatever family or friends landed on her doorstep. The warmth of the greeting with her outstretched arms was her key to hospitality. So what if we all had to shift a little further over, take a seat on the floor, or wait our turn a little longer. What was important was that family and friends were gathered and all would be well. Her great sense of hospitality made everyone and everything better.
We read in the first passage this weekend that our prophet Elisha was quite lucky that the wealthy woman was so generous with her hospitality. This woman perceived that Elisha was a man of God and she wanted to help him in some way. This was to be her wonderful gift of hospitality. She gave him some of her food when he first started passing by and later when she knew him better, she asked her husband to build a room for him so that he might stay with them whenever he wandered by. As a result, the prophet Elisha wanted to repay the woman’s wonderful hospitality. He discovered that she longed for a child, and so he promised her that within the year she would hold her new baby. Her unconditional hospitality brought an unexpected good to her life.
The theme of hospitality is found in the Gospel this weekend as we are told in Matthew that those who welcome the disciples also welcome Jesus. And note that if they welcome Jesus, they recognize God. We also learn that our reward will be great if we offer hospitality to the weakest of God’s creation. The lesson is clear: the hospitality of heaven will be ours because we have welcomed Christ in others.
We should welcome everyone as we would welcome Christ; we are to see Christ in the faces of people we meet. Although this sounds very beautiful and religious, it is not as easy as it sounds. There is no way around that truth that we can tell God of our love, but unless we demonstrate it, it is hollow empty love.
The greatest hospitality is that of the open doors of heaven for all of us, for those whom we love and accept, and those whom we fail to love and accept. It is God who gives us the world’s gifts and asks for our love above all else. The way to express our love for God is to love everyone and also to actively do our part to bring justice and fairness to everyone, and then, when that is achieved, to do even a little more. To follow Christ means to do more than the bare minimum or even to do just “the right amount.” To follow Christ means to always seek to be better and better, to always try to do more.BACK TO LIST