This Sunday is the 13th Sunday in ordinary time. The readings today remind us that as disciples of Jesus we have a mission, which is to love God. How do we love God? We love God by loving one another, by being hospitable and caring for others. The readings remind us that God knows and rewards our every act of kindness, however small or insignificant it might seem to us. The readings also remind us of the sacrifices demanded of Jesus’ disciples and the suffering we may endure for our Faith when we bear witness to Him.
In our first reading, we see that a childless woman from Shunem welcomes the prophet Elisha. It is a powerful reading in which we see several elements of discipleship. First, the woman recognizes the holiness of Elisha, and she shows him reverence and hospitality by inviting him to dine with her and her husband and by allowing the prophet to occupy an upper room of her house. In response to the woman’s hospitality, Elisha blesses her and her family, “This time next year you will be fondling a baby son.” This demonstrates that God knows and rewards our every act of kindness.
The second reading, taken from Paul’s letter to the Romans, explains why those who care for the followers of Jesus are caring for Jesus Himself, and those who show hospitality to any one of them are worthy of a reward. By our Baptism, we have been baptized into Jesus’ death and buried with Him, and we look forward to resurrection with Him. (Rom 6:5.) Because Baptism is our entrée into this new life, it makes us part of the Body of Christ, and Christ is truly present in us. That is why the one who welcomes others welcomes Christ and becomes eligible for a reward.
Today’s Gospel lesson concludes Jesus’ great “missionary discourse” in which He instructs His twelve disciples on the cost and the reward of the commitment required of a disciple. The first half of Jesus’ teachings details the behavior expected of His disciples, and the second half speaks of the behavior of others towards the disciples. Even the shameful death on the cross is not too high a price to pay if one is to be a true disciple, because the compensation is great. Paul knew it, and he writes in Romans 8:18, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed for us.” Jesus assures His disciples that whoever shows hospitality to another will be blessed. Those who receive Jesus receive the One Who sent Him. So, too, those who help the “little ones” will be amply rewarded.
Hospitality means acknowledging the presence of God in others and serving Him, especially in those whom we least expect to find Him. We, as a community, should continue to look for opportunities to be hospitable—and, of course, there are plenty of ways of offering hospitality. Our parish is a hospitable parish, and I hear wonderful stories of the hospitality demonstrated by members of our parish. In fact, just the other day I met a young couple in our parish, whom I am currently preparing for marriage. They told me that they had been “church shopping” and finally decided to register here at Santa Sophia. The reason they gave me was that Santa Sophia was a welcoming and friendly community. I thank you all, especially our hospitality committee, for creating a friendly atmosphere in our parish. We know from experience that people will never forget a kind word, simple act or even a smile. When we live in such a busy and hectic world, we tend to brush off people who need help, especially people sitting next to us and living in the same house. A kind smile or a “hello” to someone next to you may be the only kindness that person encounters all day. Don’t be hesitant to smile and greet people in the pew next to and near you, especially when you know that person is new to the parish.
When we speak of hospitality, I am reminded of Josue Jimenez, a seminarian coming to our parish this summer. It is a blessing to have him with us. He is here as part of his training for the priesthood to learn parish life, administration, and other areas of parish life. Please remember that during Josue’s six weeks with us, you all are going to be his teachers and mentors. Feel free to talk to him and invite him to your homes.
On another note, Rev. Bill Zondler, who was with us last summer, is now ordained a priest for our diocese. He will be with us this weekend . He will celebrate a couple of Masses, and we will have a reception in the hall after the 8:00 am Mass to show our love and appreciation for him. Please join us in the hall for this reception.