Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Reflection for July 1 and 2, 2017
Actions have consequences. Most of us have heard this proverb throughout our entire lives. Most of the time the proverb is heard as a dire warning – a think-before-you-act moment that most of us face every day.
Today’s reading points us in the direction of this sentiment, but not in a dire consequential warning, but as a statement of reality for us Christians. Hospitality has always been a feature of our religion. From the time of our Hebrew ancestors, the offering of hospitality was often the difference between life and death. A timely offering of water could literally save a life. The prophet Elisha was a wanderer. He went from place to place to offer his prophesies, and in exchange for the message of repentance from God, he relied on the hospitality of those who heard his message. Jesus and his disciples operated in the same manner in the Gospels. In the Middle Ages, Christian men and women formed “wandering” communities of mendicant, religious people, like the Franciscans, who accomplished their ministries through the support of the offerings of devout people who supported their ministry and message.
This tradition has its deep roots in the scriptures of our faith. Paul and Jesus remind us that it is our duty as Christians, based on our baptism and faith, to be hospitable to one another. Jesus tells us that our dedication to our fellow believers supersedes the duties we have to our own families.
In our own community, how hospitable do we find ourselves? Gospel hospitality transcends handing someone a bulletin at the door, or a timid handshake at the sign of peace. How well are we a welcoming community? Do we seek to understand our fellow Christians before we leap to judgment? Do we offer assistance to poor people without conditions? Do we seek to understand the cultures and traditions of our fellow parishioners from other countries or from other parishes? Do we expect newcomers to become more like us before we acknowledge them? Do our actions on the other six days of the week reinforce the welcome we extend at the liturgy on Sunday?
Living a new life in Christ through our baptism calls us to transcend the human norm of suspicion and divisiveness, and to recognize our brothers and sisters in our Church community. So, positive actions do have positive consequences. We need to seek out opportunities to offer welcome, assistance, and the means to make Christ present to the world through our actions. All of this makes our baptismal promise something more than seemingly hollow words. It becomes a wonderful consequence, an opportunity to be the people we profess ourselves to be.