Offering Hospitality to Christ. Homily for 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time
The readings from Mass this week really push the issue of your personal relationship with Christ. Would you invite a dangerous criminal into your home? Would you offer hospitality to a known terrorist who threatened your family? If this Jesus is not really who he says he is, and you don’t REALLY believe that this is the Christ, then he is clearly a very dangerous person who is leading you to some kind of life that will not be of any benefit to you .. and will definitely hurt you.
So why are you following him? Why are you offering “hospitality to Christ?
Kate and Andy are friends of mine from Orlando. I met them over 10 years ago when they were visiting St. Agatha – St. James Church (where I was assigned as Chaplain of the Penn Newman Center) in Philadelphia. After offering them some hospitality and showing them around the newly renovated church, they gave me their business cards and said to come and see them if I was ever in Orlando.
As it turned out, I was in Orlando about 6 months later for a karate tournament and stayed with them for a few days. We have remained in contact ever since. Much like Elisha and the Shunammite woman, they also had a room fixed up for me and, knowing my affinity for the mountains, it was complete with linens from Cabelas and pine scented soap.
Last week, I called her and asked why she was so generous with her hospitality. After giving it some thought for several days she said, “I think the bottom line is this .. If I have successfully made someone feel comfortable, cared about, happy, loved, then it brings my heart joy!”
There is a difference between being friendly or nice – and being truly welcoming and hospitable. So how does St. Monica “operationalize” “offering hospitality to Christ? What would the place be like?
- It would be a place that is safe, a place of security.
- It would be a place where you have an invitation to open up about your faith, God, your life and yourself.
- It would be a place where they can question (Church Teachings for example) yet not be judged.
- It would be a place of a “dance” where, what you say is heard and acknowledged – but not necessarily approval, sanction. It would be a place built on a foundation of a dynamic tension between gentleness and strength.
How do we offer hospitality to Christ as individuals?
I recently hears a story about a birthday party for woman who had 9 children. As a joke, someone asked her, “Did you have a favorite child?” When she answered, “Yes” the conversation naturally stopped. “Which child was your favorite?” someone asked. She answered, “Whichever one needed me the most”
I close with a poem on hospitality:
For the homeless – it is a shelter.
For the lonely – it’s just a visit.
For the hungry – it’s a meal.
For one who stumbles,
it is a helping hand.
For the thirsty,
just a drop
Audio version of the homily is here: