Our First Reading from the Second Book of Kings and our Gospel account today both speak of the importance of hospitality. One of the joys in life is to meet a warm, friendly, hospitable person. Hospitality is one of the hallmarks of a true disciple.
I’ve noticed these past weeks as we continue to work through the pandemic, that more and more people are less than friendly. It appears that they are afraid to even say “hello” when passing them in the store. I’ve encountered very few folks who have a smile on their face which is the first characteristic of a hospitable person.
Jesus urges his disciples to be first and foremost a people of hospitality. I’m afraid that today hospitality is a very different matter, even before the pandemic. Used to be that folks left the doors of their home unlocked. Today we have locks, bolts, chains, peep holes, alarm systems and watch dogs. All of these, while maybe necessary, are obstacles to hospitality. In the world today there is a lot of loneliness and there are lots of strangers, aliens, and misplaced people. Those who live on the margins are growing and they are desperately in need of encountering people of hostility. As Jesus said in today’s Gospel account, “And whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink because the little one is a disciples; amen, I say to you, that one will surely not lose their reward.”
Christ calls us to welcome the stranger in our midst. He asks us to accept people as they are and be a companion on the journey. This enables them to feel part of the community.
Hospitality is not so much about open doors but open hearts. As Jesus said in the Parable of the Judgement of the Nations, “When I was a stranger you welcomed me.” As St. Benedict wrote in his Rule, “Welcome everyone as if it were Christ himself.”
I would like to share with you this reflection by an anonymous writer:
Much of our lives is spent in keeping people out.
We have private houses, private clubs, and so on.
Of course there are times when we need to be alone.
Yet there is a sense in which our size as human beings can be measured by the circles we draw to take other people in: the smaller the circle, the smaller the person.
A strong person isn’t afraid of people who are different.
A wise person welcomes them.
By shutting other people out we deny ourselves the riches of other people’s experiences.
We starve our minds and harden our hearts.
In the beginning God gave the Earth its shape.
God made it round. God included everybody. So should we.
Fr. Dennis, June 28, 2020