In both the Old and New Testaments, hospitality is a sacred duty. In our reading from 2 Kings, a “woman of influence” is blessed with a son because of hospitality shown to the prophet Elisha. Similarly, Abraham and Sarah were promised a son after Abraham showed hospitality to three strangers. In the Gospel, Jesus promises a proper reward to those who show hospitality, even doing something as simple as giving a drink of water to someone who is thirsty.
Jesus lived a life of being welcoming and showing hospitality, especially to those rejected by others. He ate with sinners like Zacchaeus, He welcomed children, He told us to invite the lowly to gatherings and welcome strangers, etc. One of the few things we know He did after His resurrection was to prepare breakfast on the shore of the Sea of Tiberias for His disciples, who had abandoned and/or denied Him.
I think hospitality, especially to those in need who cannot repay, is what Jesus had in mind when He said, “whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” In other words, when we can think of more than ourselves, when we can reach out and help those in need (“lose our life”), we are imitating Jesus and bringing His love and generosity to the world. And that is the true meaning of living a Christian life.
I invite us to spend time this week reflecting on the many instances in which Jesus was welcoming to those who could never repay Him, asking ourselves how we are doing at following His example. God bless.
Church sign of the week: Welcome! There are no strangers here: only friends we haven’t yet met.
In today’s Gospel Jesus says FEAR NOT or BE NOT AFRAID three times. He assures us that the “opponents” have limited power and will not win. Most importantly, He assures us that God’s compassionate love is greater than anything that threatens us. God’s compassionate love!!! If God loves and protects the sparrow, will he not protect us? The hairs of our head are counted!
In much of our national rhetoric these days, fear is being used to manipulate people and win them over, even to positions that are anti-Gospel: Fear of Muslims, fear of immigrants, fear of people different from us, fear of losing jobs, fear of America not being #1 (as if it is our destiny and right to be #1).
Often our fears come down to loss (self-esteem, security, health and life). And none of us wants to lose what is important or essential for our good and the good of those we love. But we don’t have control. We can never have control. The richest person in the world cannot keep the deterioration of age away forever, nor can the richest
person evade death. We do not and cannot have control.
We hear often that these are “unprecedented times,” and many people are fearful. Things are not like we are used to: we don’t know what kind of future we face. For us as people of faith, we have the promise that God is with us always, that ultimately all will be OK, that God is in control. But for that reality to be helpful and effective in our lives, we need to have a relationship with God: we need to let God in and allow God to calm our fears.
I invite us to reflect this week on how much we are constrained by fear, how much we put in God’s hands, and how can we grow. And remember, a strong, personal relationship with the Lord is crucial to allowing Him to calm our fears. God bless.
Church sign of the week: Dear God, be good to me. The sea is so big and my boat is so small.
The last line of our Gospel reading this weekend is very powerful. We are told that Jesus’ heart is “moved with pity” for the people, whom He saw as having no direction in life. His response is to say to His disciples, including us: Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give. Jesus wants to help people, but He wants to use us to do it.
What gifts have I been given? Sometimes we like to give ourselves a pass, saying we don’t have anything to offer or that we are too busy, etc. But we all have gifts that can be used to help others, if our hearts are “moved with pity,” as we go through everyday life. Some examples:
Time: God has given me life, health, and 24 hours in a day. I can stop for a few moments to interact with a homeless person, respecting their human dignity. I can take a few minutes to brighten the day of someone who is homebound. I can listen sympathetically to someone who is suffering a loss.
Talent: God has given each of us particular abilities, perhaps abilities honed by education. I was an English grammar professor: I can help people with their writing. A lawyer can offer some time and talent pro bono through various organizations. A good cook and organizer can volunteer with a homeless shelter. Whatever your specialty, there are ways to help others with it.
Treasure: our culture tells us we need more and more. When we stop and reflect on what we really need, we find that we have resources that can easily be shared with others in need. It is said that a budget (or an accounting of how money is spent) is the most accurate reflection of one’s priorities. How much of my income is used for charitable work? To help others?
Studies show that the happiest people are those who are generous and think of others, not just self. My experience confirms that. I invite us to reflect on this and ask ourselves if we could do better. And if so, how? God bless.
Church sign of the week: If you are more fortunate than others, build a longer table, not a taller fence.
This weekend we celebrate the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ. A key word in our reading from Deuteronomy is “remember.” The Israelites are about to enter the promised land and Moses is exhorting them to remember how God took care of them, leading them out of slavery and to the promised land. That “remembering” will help them be faithful to the covenant they made with the Lord.
When Jesus instituted the Eucharist at the Last Supper, He exhorted His disciples, including us, to “do this in remembrance of me.” What did He mean?
One way of looking at it is this: Jesus is telling us that we are to eat His Body and drink His Blood, but, when we are doing it, we should remember how He lived and what His values were. He was kind and generous to people. He did not exclude those whom society excluded. He was quick to forgive and eat with sinners. He showed us a loving God who is not out to get us, but who wants the best for us.
When we remember all that, then His Body and Blood become sustenance to help us live as He did, something that is always a challenge for us. If we don’t “remember,” we could end up simply worshipping His Body and Blood, which, as I read the Gospels, is NOT what He wanted.
The Eucharist is food to strengthen us to live as loving, generous, forgiving people. Let us thank God for this gift, partaking of it regularly, while making sure it is sustenance to help us live as Christ did.
Church sign of the week: Are you too busy acting like a Christian to be one?
This weekend we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, our belief that there are three persons in one God. Our reading from 2 Corinthians ends with words we hear at the beginning of every Mass: The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you. What are these words saying to us?
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ: the grace that Jesus has given us is redemption or salvation. By His life, death, and resurrection, we have been redeemed. What a grace that is! Moreover, by His words and actions He modeled for us how we are to live so as to take advantage of this great gift. By His Blood we are redeemed; by our following of His example, we claim that redemption!
The love of God: God’s love for us is shown by the fact that we exist. He created each of us as a unique expression of His love. But He also loved us so much that He sent His Son to redeem us when we stray away on our own. Greater love than this has no one...
The fellowship of the Holy Spirit: the final proof of God’s love for us is the gift of the Holy Spirit, who always walks with us (fellowship), helping us stay close to the Father and the Son. Left alone we would not have much of a chance, but with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, all is possible.
The many feasts we celebrate during this time of the Church year remind us of all God has done for us: after the suffering and death of Holy Week, we celebrated our redemption with Christ’s rising from the dead on Easter. Then we celebrated His Ascension, followed by celebrating the gift of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the Church on Pentecost. This weekend we celebrate the love shown us by the Blessed Trinity and next week we will celebrate the Body and Blood of Christ, the great gift that feeds and sustains us as we move through life. All together we are celebrating one God who creates, redeems, and sanctifies us, all out of love. Hopefully, our response is to return that love, especially through love and service of others.
May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God the Father, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you, each and every day of your life. God bless!
Church sign of the week: Rule number one: never make God number two.