13th SUNDAY A 2020.
We are all aware of how encouraging any act of kindness can be. It lifts our spirits and can help us through difficult times. There is, however a similar word, but one we use less often: "thoughtfulness". Thoughtfulness is kindness but much more. Kindness is impulsively doing the considerate thing at the moment. The thoughtful person reflects and inquires about what the other might need.
SCRIPTURE READINGS: 2 Kings 4.8-12a,14-16/ Rom 6.3-4,8-11/ Mat 10.37-42
In our first reading we see a couple in kindness welcoming the prophet Elisha to stay and eat with them. They came to understand that he often passes that way and they go to the trouble of discussing what they might do for him. This couple obviously not only gave but gave willingly with joy. After the first meal there where they pressed him to stay; "he always broke his journey for a meal when he passed that way." Elisha knew he was welcome. They decide to build a little room for him, furnished with a bed, table, chair and lamp... all he might need for a comfortable stay.
Some people seem to have a natural sense of welcome and hospitality. But it always costs something to forget self for the sake of the other.
Authentic hospitality demands that we drop all suspicion of others, especially those of different cultures and backgrounds. Hospitality cannot be merely a gesture of kindness to appease our conscience, but a real concern, a readiness to be a faithful friend. Welcoming a person who we hope will come tomorrow.
Hospitality also means allowing the other person room and space. Not to be curious, a busybody or someone who smothers the other with kindness. Openness and welcome without intrusion. We can see how the couple respected Elisha's need for privacy and personal space.
Hospitality is finding a balance. It is not so much doing things for people but offering an atmosphere of freedom; offering friendship without smothering, freedom without abandonment.
The guest has need that you can serve, but the guest also has gifts that will enrich you. While hospitality costs something of ourselves, there is a surprise in store for us. The guest becomes a bearer of good news in the environment of hospitality. Always! Christ speaks that truth in the Gospel. “Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me, and those who welcome me welcome the one who sent me.” Christ is always passing by in the need and the gift of the other. The other always brings the word of God.
Elisha is that holy man. He is the presence of God to them. Elisha in his thoughtfulness asks, "Can something be done for her?" Elisha then promised, through the intervention of God, exactly what the woman yearned for. "This time next year, you will hold a son in your arms."
No Christian virtue is more desired than hospitality. After being torn between her faith and solidarity with the poor, Dorothy Day met a travelling French Catholic intellectual, Peter Maurin. Through him she discovered her life's work in founding the Catholic Worker newspaper with a radical commitment to social justice, beginning houses of hospitality where anyone in need, could find a home, and in advocating pacifism. She was arrested many times during her life, and died in 1980.
Without doubt, the clearest teaching offered by Jesus about accepting immigrants and refugees is his explicit identification of the stranger as the sign of his continuing presence throughout time and space. "I was a stranger and you welcomed me."
On the occasion of the Migrant and Refugee World Day last September, Pope Francis decried “the culture of comfort” that leads to indifference in the face of a global migration and refugee crisis. The pope has made caring for migrants a hallmark of his papacy. “We cannot be indifferent to the tragedy of old and new forms of poverty, to the bleak isolation, contempt and discrimination experienced by those who do not belong to ‘our group,”’ Francis said. “We cannot remain insensitive, our hearts deadened, before the misery of so many innocent people. We must not fail to weep. We must not fail to respond.”
Many migrants and refugees from conflicts throughout the world attended the Mass in St. Peter’s Square, which closed with the unveiling of a bronze statue by Canadian artist Timothy Schmalz depicting migrants packed on a boat. “This statue depicts a group of migrants from various cultures and over different historic periods. I wanted this artistic work here in St. Peter’s Square to remind everyone of the evangelical challenge of hospitality,” Pope Francis said.
"I wanted to reflect the different states of mind and emotion involved in a migrant's journey," Schmalz, who was in Rome for the unveiling, told CBC. "Some of the figures are absolutely joyful that they're heading to a new beginning, others are weeping because they've left their loved ones behind."
Hovering above the refugees' heads is a set of angel wings. Schmalz's website says the inspiration for his statue comes from a passage from Hebrews 13:2 in the New Testament: "Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares."
Pope Francis has said, “hospitality, which is one of the works of mercy, is revealed as a truly human and Christian virtue, a virtue which in today’s world is at risk of being overlooked.” Timothy Schmalz, the artist, has said “While Angels Unawares is a work of art, he also see it as "an ad for being welcoming to strangers."
Let us continue to foster the virtue of hospitality in our parish. Let us celebrate that we, since the days of the Vietnamese Boat People, have assisted over fifty refugees to enter Canada, many from camps where they have lived for years, to make their home with us. For the future, the parish, in partnership with other sponsors, have applied to bring in three families, a family of 5, a family of 3 and a family of six, with the hope that all may arrive by 2022. We thank those who serve on the Refugee Committee and all those who have donated to the Refugee Fund, personally helped the refugees to settle, or supported the Tomato and Pepper plant sale which raised $5000 this year. May we continue to foster a parish of hospitality. Many Blessings.
Fr. Ken Forster OMI
St. Philip Neri Parish
306 715 5064