By Fr. Angelo Anthony, C.PP.S.
We have been reading from Chapter 10 of Matthew’s Gospel, which focuses on the mission of the disciples. Jesus directs them to announce, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Trusting in divine providence, they were not to take anything with them. As followers of Jesus they should expect persecution and suffering, but they should not be afraid because God cares for them more than many sparrows. Jesus closes his teaching on mission by insisting that our love for God must be the most important focus of our life.
How do you know when the love of Christ has overtaken your heart? One way is by humble acceptance of the cross that is given to you. The second way is to live with a heart that reflects the love and hospitality found in the heart of Christ.
Because we have died with Christ in the waters of baptism, we believe that we shall also live with him (Rom 6:8). This life we share is not just reserved for eternal life, but it includes the life we share with him today. In imitation of Christ, our hearts are to reflect the hospitality found in the heart of Christ, a heart that is open, attentive, and generous. When we love Christ above all people in our lives, then we are better prepared to love unconditionally within our families and community.
Jesus has taught us that hospitality is more than simply saying “hi” to someone; it is an attitude of the heart that creates a space of openness and reverence for the other person. By offering a cup of cold water, giving food to the hungry or welcoming the stranger, we recognize and pay attention to the dignity that is found in each person.
Unfortunately, hospitality is becoming a lost virtue. All too often we equate hospitality with entertainment. When we entertain guests we usually have a plan in place with the hopes of preparing a memorable event. Hospitality is more spontaneous, a response from the heart that is attentive to a need that presents itself. We heard a beautiful story of hospitality in our reading from 2 Kings as the woman of influence from Shunem urged Elisha to dine with her. She welcomed the stranger, opening her heart and her home to him in loving service.
Extending hospitality doesn’t take a lot of money or need a special occasion or necessitate a well thought out plan. It is a response of the heart to a spiritual need that reveals the generous heart of God where a stranger is recognized as our brother or sister in Christ. Hospitality is expressed beautifully in Precious Blood spirituality because it is through the Precious Blood of Christ that “we are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the holy ones and members of the household of God” (Eph. 2:19).
How can you foster a heart of hospitality? Be on the look-out for people who seem overwhelmed, overloaded, left out or wandering aimlessly in life. Don’t develop a plan, simply be attentive and respond to the crying need in imitation of Christ. A simple call, a note of support, an invitation to share a cup of coffee and a listening ear are all examples of sharing God’s love in the simplest of ways. The gift you offer becomes the space where change can take place giving new life to a weary soul. In this sacred relationship we encounter the love of God and discover a truth that will set us free.
Fr. Angelo Anthony, C.PP.S., is the pastor of the Dayton Region Seven parishes, which include Emmanuel, Holy Trinity and St. Joseph.