I was brought up in a Council Estate in Glasgow, which had housing for 60,000 people and was originally built with no shopping centre; it was reputedly the largest housing estate in Europe. The area had 6 Catholic primary schools, 1 Catholic Secondary school and three Catholic Churches; St Bartholomew’s, where my parents were married, St Martin’s and St Margaret Mary’s, where I made my First Communion and Confirmation, and I was an Altar Boy for around 8 years.
In those days, there were lots of priests and they used to visit our home’s frequently, and I remember one priest telling the story of a family where the lady of the house always put out chocolate biscuits when she served him a cup of tea.
On one visit though, the chocolate biscuits were replaced with plain biscuits and an explanation from the lady. She told the priest she only ever bought chocolate biscuits when she knew a priest was coming and, on this occasion, she had gone shopping a couple of days earlier and knowing that she would have to hide the biscuits from her children, or they may have ‘disappeared’ before the priest arrived. She chose a ‘safe place’ and left them there. It was only when she went to put something in the oven, after allowing it to pre-heat that she remembered the safe place was not as safe as she originally had thought.
Our scripture readings today speak about hospitality. In the first reading we hear of the lady who recognised Elisha as a holy man of God and insisted on initially serving him a meal when he passed which evolved into creating an upper room for him to rest on his journeys. Elisha was struck by the generosity of her hospitality so much, that he asked the Lord to grant her a son. This is similar to books of the Bible where we think of Sarah giving birth to Isaac and Elizabeth giving birth to John the Baptist; whilst both are in the elder years. Reminding us again that what seems impossible to man is possible by the will of God.
We are reminded of another type of hospitality in the second reading; where Jesus took upon himself the sins of the whole of mankind so that He could offer us all eternal hospitality with Him in heaven. St Paul tells us that through our baptism we go down into the grave with Jesus and rise up again with Him to live a new life. The word Baptism comes from the ancient Greek word ‘baptizo’ which means to dip or submerge. We remember that early Christians were fully submerged; usually as adults and they would have experienced going down into the water and rising up out of the water; to live their new life in Christ. This is a rebirth. At our baptism we become adopted children of God [chosen] and we should celebrate this.
In the Gospel, St Matthew recalls the words of Jesus; that we are to put our relationship with Jesus first; even before the relationship we have with our own family. It is through the love we have for Christ that the love we have for our family flourishes. It is the love we have for Christ that allows us to put the needs of others before our own needs. Jesus goes on to insist that we will be rewarded for welcoming people of faith and the reward will be as if we have welcomed Jesus Himself.
Last week I asked us all to think about what we are most afraid of and to reflect on that fear in prayer. I wonder if you managed or remembered to do so. If you did, great, but if not, it’s not too late to do so.
This week, I’d like us all to think about our journey in faith. Make some time to write down what you can remember and put it somewhere safe, only not in the oven. By recalling our own personal journey and going back to it periodically to update it or refresh it we will be ready if anyone ever asks us why we believe in God or why we are a Christian? Sharing our own experience [or as it is often referred to as our testimony] is really powerful. Given that it is our own personal experience, it is difficult to dispute.
So how will you prepare yourself to respond to those who are seeking God and trying to understand who He is and what He has done for you?
Jesus is telling us today, that He wants us to be in relationship with Him. He doesn’t want the time that is left over when we have done everything else, we want to do. Jesus wants the best of us. Jesus also emphasises that we are to welcome people and show them hospitality; this is crucial whether the visitor is ‘a prophet, a holy man’ or someone who does not know God. Through our hospitality we honour our visitor; if they are people of God then we welcome the one who sent them. If they are still to find God then their first experience of God’s love comes from us, because God has CHOSEN us to be part of their journey towards Him.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church
Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
CCC 2232-2233: to follow Christ is first vocation of Christian
CCC 537, 628, 790, 1213, 1226-1228, 1694: baptism, to die to self, to live for Christ
CCC 1987: grace justifies through faith and baptism.
Please keep in your prayers this week
- The success of the Diocesan Life in the Spirit programme which is running online on Thursdays.
- Those who are sick, those recovering from surgery, those who are dying, the recently deceased and those who mourn.
- All those struggling to feed their families at this time.
- Those working to help others who are struggling with the cost-of-living crisis.
- Those discerning a vocation.
- Those preparing to be ordained to the priesthood or diaconate.
- Those whose Charism is hospitality, that they never feel discouraged.