"Whoever receives you receives me"
Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Originally posted in Facebook by Fr. Michael Cheong, FMVD
Certainly, there is no greater human experience than that of falling in love, yet that which could be even greater but less commonly celebrated is that of staying in love with the one whom one loves.
Today's first reading tells us about Elisha and the old couple who were childless, and because of their generosity to God in welcoming a prophet into their home, they were rewarded with a child.
Is there truly a reward for people who are generous and faithful? There are perhaps so many good and wonderful people in this world who live ordinary and humble lives that nobody tends to notice them. Certainly, you do not hear it blasted in the media of anything good that happens, but it does not mean that it does not exist.
Good families are the building blocks of society. Good does not mean perfect, but good. The Church, in the past few decades, has given so much attention to the family and it's realities that there is no doubt of its importance to Christian life and to the development of sound individuals who make up a healthy and nourishing society.
In an allocutio of Pope Saint John Paul II, he proposed to all Christian families that the first and essential vocation of marriage and family is that of 'hospitality' or welcome. The married couple, first and foremost, welcome each other completely into each other's lives, in-laws and all. Then they welcome their children absolutely and unconditionally. And later they would have to welcome the spouses and families of their children. And some would even welcome strangers and the needy in their own ways and in the measure of their own possibilities. But last of all, they would have to welcome each other until their last days. They fell in love by that first welcome and stay in love by continuing to welcome each other everyday.
Hospitality is not spontaneous. It is not a given, but a constant exercise of having a bigger heart. It is a call that one is faced with everyday and more often than not, with the same persons. Apparently, it might seem to do nothing, but what hospitality does is to create a space that is secure and positive for growth and human development, especially for little ones.
That is why fidelity in love can be so heroic and patience so deeply sought for, even though it is unseen. Fidelity and joy in marriage creates a space that allows children to grow up secure and enthusiastic about life because they have seen the fruitfulness of that love. In fact, the Pope calls patience a revolution of tenderness, because behind its gentle front, is the amazing power and passion of God - an unrelenting love.
So the Gospel of today could seem a contradiction to this message, since it asks us to love God more than our family relations. But what it really means is that we are meant to set this vocation to hospitality as the basis of all family relations and, in fact, in our relationships with all.
"Whoever receives you receives me,
and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.
Whoever receives a prophet because he is a prophet
will receive a prophet's reward,
and whoever receives a righteous man
because he is a righteous man
will receive a righteous man's reward.
And whoever gives only a cup of cold water
to one of these little ones to drink
because the little one is a disciple--
amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward."
Welcome and hospitality. If you think about it, isn't that the most important attitude as you begin each day? And at the end of each day, isn't it what we long for? Without it, we close our lives into ourselves and are unable to welcome the gift of the other or even the very gift of life. Somehow, what the Gospel is trying to say is that the most important is to welcome Christ. Because he is in everyone and everything, especially in the little ones. If we welcome him, we welcome Life itself. If the reward of welcoming a prophet is that of a prophet, imagine what reward it would be if you would welcome God.
Fr. Michael Cheong is a Singaporean missionary priest of the Verbum Dei Missionary Fraternity. His current assignment is in Rome, Italy.