This gospel reminds us that Jesus’ message is not about a way of life founded only on love and mercy. Ours is a way of life that is, above all else, about the person of Jesus. Jesus claims a special place in our lives, more important than our closest family and dearest ones. Being a disciple is not a photo frame around my life. It takes center stage, directing every moment of our lives.
Jesus assures us that even the smallest gesture of mercy to those in need will not go unnoticed. And the rewards promised by Jesus extend far beyond a donation to Daystar or AIM or a Christmas gift for the elderly – even beyond a hidden act of charity. Jesus’ kind of mercy is more than civility and good manners. It is about day-to-day living that echoes respect for all God’s creatures and all creation. It is gratitude expressed in a smile, an acknowledgment of another’s presence, their service and their gifts.
Henry Nouwen says: “The right question to ask is not: ‘Am I strong enough to be a proclaimer of the gospel?’ The question should be: ‘Am I sufficiently weak enough? Am I aware enough of my own weaknesses, with my own fragile humanness with its brokenness and rough pieces to identify with others? Do I accept my condition, or do I try to hide it and end up being hardened, rude and unaccepting of others’ humanness? Do I recognize and accept that we are all on the same journey?’”
What attracts people to our mission is not what we do, as much as why we do it. Jesus says: “Whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.” We pray that in our sincerity, our transparency in accomplishing our mission – our ministries – our manner of life – we can honestly say: They who see me – see Jesus – the One who sends us.
Our storyteller today (Matthew) has Jesus giving his disciples some instructions about how they are to represent him. He doesn’t baptize them first. He doesn’t have them memorize a creed. He doesn’t give them a vet’s manual so they can identify sheep from goats. He certainly doesn’t ask them about their age, culture, social circles, gender preferences or why he should hire them. He doesn’t even give them the assurance of salvation. In fact, he tells them it’s not about them at all. What he represents is even more important than life itself. He tells them their task is to represent Him and in doing so they represent the ONE who sent Him.
So, that’s IT. Be hospitable and everything else will follow. Why did Jesus make hospitality the basis for his ministry? Perhaps because it is essential to building relationships. It is the first step to overcoming fear, finding understanding, and giving respect. Ultimately it is the foundation of bringing about a peaceful world. It is the source of harmony.
Jesus lived to change the world and change it, he did – one person at a time. To this day Christ lives in, with and through us to change the world one person at a time. Each act of kindness, each word of welcome, each act of hospitality binds us together in love and moves the universe that much closer to peace. This is not the fragile peace that the world gives; but the peace of God that transcends selfishness, greed, hostility, prejudice, hatred and even war. This is the peace which can begin with something as simple as a smile, a greeting, an act of hospitality. If you doubt this, I challenge you to think of a time when you were shown unexpected hospitality that at least improved your day and may even have changed your life.
You see, hospitality is at the heart of our faith. It starts with a heart open to the influence and working of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We welcome God’s “interference” (so to say) in our everyday dealings with each other. We don’t make plans so much as pray to uncover our role in God’s grand plan. If we miss cues, well, who is going to say our lines? A Christian, a Benedictine, is simply someone who is hospitable, one who practices “radical hospitality.” So shall it be among we who promise to “commit ourselves and our resources to respond with the compassion of Christ to the hungers of the people of God.”
~Reflection by Sister Roberta Bailey, OSB
May you have a happy and safe 4th of July!