Friday 22 April 2016

13th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A

When we come to church, we come not as strangers or foreigners, but we come because we are supposed to be brothers and sisters in Christ. But the question is: are we really brothers and sisters in Christ? Look around you... do you sit with strangers, or quite likely, do you sit only with people you know, or are familiar with? Do you know the persons on your right and left? Perhaps if they are your family members, friends or relatives, you would know them. But what about the persons in the front pews, or the persons at the back pews, or even the persons a few pews away? Do you know all of them? Or do you know most of them? Or do you know some of them? Or perhaps you don't know them at all? We sometimes hear people complaining that the church seems cold and unwelcoming, since they feel as if they come and leave as strangers. The question is: Who do you think should do the welcoming? Do we blame the priest alone? Or should we blame the hospitality ministers?

So who should do the welcoming? The answer should be obvious: It should be each and every one of us. If each and every one of us can show hospitality to just one other person, we will become living witnesses of love and hospitality. What is hospitality? Hospitality means paying attention to another person and making the person feel at home. We want others to pay attention to us, and we get angry, upset and hurt when we are ignored, when others don’t listen to us or treat us as if we do not exist. But do we pay attention to others just as we expect others to pay attention to us?

Hospitality should transform us from being self-centered to being other-centred. St. Paul tells us in the second reading: "When we were baptised in Christ Jesus we were baptised in his death; in other words, when we were baptised we went into the tomb with him and joined him in death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the Father’s glory, we too might live a new life." This living a new life means we are not merely individuals but members of the community, brothers and sisters in Christ. Hospitality also means that we need to break down barriers created by prejudice and suspicion. Life in Christ means that every person is a member of my family and my friend. Jesus reminds us: "Anyone who prefers father or mother to me is not worthy of me. Anyone who prefers son or daughter to me is not worthy of me." What is Jesus telling us here? What he is saying is that we are all to live as one family, as brothers and sisters in Christ, as members of the community called to love, compassion, forgiveness and reconciliation.

Today, let us welcome each other with open hands and open hearts. When we welcome each other, we are also welcoming Jesus, as Jesus in the Gospel tells us: "Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me; and those who welcome me welcome the one who sent me." The Shunammite woman in today's first reading had no son and her husband is old, and because she was welcoming to Elisha, God gave her a son. In the Gospel, Jesus assures us: "Anyone who welcomes a prophet will have a prophet’s reward; and anyone who welcomes a holy man will have a holy man’s reward. If anyone gives so much as a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is a disciple, then I tell you solemnly, he will most certainly not lose his reward." May we learn to be truly and sincerely hospitable to all, so that all may know that we are Christians by our love, for the greater glory of God.

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