YEAR A: HOMILY FOR THE 13TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
HOMILY THEME: PLEASING GOD THROUGH HOSPITALITY.
BY: REV FR GERALD MUOKA
HOMILY: HOMILY FOR THE 13TH SUNDAY IN THE ORDINARY TIME, YEAR A
2Kings 4:8-11, 14-16; Ps. 89:2-3, 16-17, 18-19 Rom 6:3-4, 8-11; Matt 10:37-42
A story was narrated about Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who is universally known as an ambassador of hospitality and generosity. One day, she came across a young woman in the gutter of the street, directly in front of one of the Calcutta hospitals. The young lady was so ill that she did not notice or care that the rats and cockroaches were eating her feet. Mother Teresa picked up the woman and carried her into the hospital. She told the nurse inside:
“This woman is dying. She needs help.”
But the nurse replied: “Sorry, no room for her here. She is poor and can’t pay and we can’t save her anyway, so we can’t waste a bed on her. Now please move along.”
Mother Teresa’s heart broke as she carried the woman back to the street, and there she stayed with the woman for hours until she died.
Oh, what a gory and pathetic scenario….
Oh, what a world bereft of hospitable agents…
Beloved in Christ, in today’s Liturgy, Jesus invites us to pay attention to the virtues of hospitality and generosity, by being sensitive to the need of one another in order to make a positive difference in their lives.
The first reading presents us with the shunamite woman’s model of hospitality, who persuaded the husband to build a resting abode for the man of God, Elisha. Such hospitable gesture was pleasing to God and they received the favour of child birth.
I just pondered what would be the reaction of a 21st century “pino pino” husband to such request, and the topic of discussions of our modern day neighbours, over the woman’s hospitality and generosity…onye ma ihe na-aga n’etiti nwanyi a na man of God? (who knows what is going on between them). Things have really fallen apart…, that we often fail to encounter and please God in the least of our brethren. Jesu meere agburu anyi ebere (God have mercy).
The second reading, taken from Paul’s letter to the Romans, gives reasons why those who care and show hospitality to the disciples of Jesus, care for Jesus himself and equally eligible for a reward: “By our Baptism, we have been baptized into Jesus’ death and buried with him, and we look forward to resurrection with him”(Rom 6:5). Since Baptism is our entrée into this new life, it makes us part of the Body of Christ, and Christ is truly present in us. That is why the one who welcomes us welcomes Christ and becomes eligible for a reward.
Then, in the Gospel reading, Jesus charges us with the task of extending hospitality to missionaries, most especially, those operating in his name.
ETYMOLOGICAL/BIBLICAL MEANING OF HOSPITALITY
The term ‘hospitality’ is derived from the Greek ‘philoxenia-philoxenos’. It is a fusion of two words: Philos=love + Xenos=stranger. The question remains; who is a stranger? Stranger is one whose identity, nationality, religion and social life, etc is unknown to you. The direct opposite is Xenophobia- Xeno=stranger +phobia =fear, meaning, fear of strangers or connotatively put, “hatred for stranger”.
Hospitality simply means, acknowledging the presence of God in others and serving Him in them, especially those in whom we least expect to find Him.
In biblical terms, hospitality is the act of giving friendship to a visitor.
In the ancient Near East, hospitality was the process of ‘receiving’ outsiders and changing them from strangers to guests and members of the community.
The New Testament notion of hospitality is captured in the words of Mother Teresa of Calcutta “we do it for Jesus”; when asked how she could manage to minister to the dying man inside the gutter with sores, she said simply, “I see Jesus in him.” So, being hospitable means, treating everyone the way you would treat Jesus if he were to be your guest, by caring and loving them. The Scripture in Mtt.25:31-41, attests to such claims: “whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, that you do unto me.
SCRIPTURAL BASIS OF HOSPITALITY:
The Old and New Testaments give us many examples of God’s will in respect to hospitality as follows:
In the story of Abraham and the three angelic visitors (Gen. 18) we have a picture of genuine hospitality in the ancient world: He saw unknown guests, ran after them with warm embrace, served them meal and sheltered the. He made them his own. He entertained angels without knowing. The promise of a countless generation was consolidated by the goodnews, “by this time next year, Sarah your wife will have a child”
Gen.19, Lot and his family escaped God’s wrath over Sodom and Gomorrah, because of the hospitality of Lot to the three angels who delivered and led them out of the community.
In the first reading, 1Kgs. 4, we see the blessing of a Male child on the Shunamite family who hospitably harboured Elisha
Ex.23:9 “Do not oppress an alien; for you yourselves know how it feels to be aliens, because you were aliens in Egypt.”
Lev.19:10 “Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the LORD your God.”
Deut 10:18-19 “God defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing. And you are to love those who are aliens, for you yourselves were aliens in Egypt.”
Heb. 13:2 “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels. (i.e. Abraham, Lot)”
Rom.12:13 “Distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality”.
1 Pet.4:9 “Be hospitable to one another without grumbling”.
HOSPITALITY AND ENTERTAINMENT
However, we sometimes mistake hospitality for entertainment.
Jesus, first warns us against substituting hospitality with entertainment and equally redefined the principles of hospitality when he said to his host, “When you give a dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” (Lk.14:12-14)
Entertaining aims at showing off ones beautiful home, clever decorations, and cooking prowess, while Hospitality, sees the home with all the costly adornments as gifts from God, using them as God desires; aims to serve God through humanity.
Contextually, hospitality is more than inviting someone to the dinner. It involves opening up, welcoming, accepting, giving, sharing, loving, advocating, even sacrificing.
PRACTICAL WAYS TO SHOW CHRISTIAN HOSPITALITY
(1) LET THEM BREATHE
(2) BE MINDFUL OF MISSIONARIES
(3)CARING FOR THE SICK AND THOSE UNDER HEALTH EMERGENCIES
(1) LET THEM BREATHE
“I can’t breath” is a recent expression resulting from the gruesome murder of a black American, Geoge Floyed, by a white American police. This incident, has generated lots of protests with corresponding chants, “black lives matter.” But we need to look around us to know whether those around us are really breathing… A lot of people live around us, most especially, strangers and equally those working under us are being suffocated through our actions, inactions, insensitivity and indifference.
The house help, Gateman, apprentice employees, etc, do not have access to the same school, food, basic amenities with your family, because they are strangers. Treat them as you would treat Jesus, if he was to be your guest.
So many traditions, still suffocate a group of people, family, kindred and community to some obnoxious treatments in the name of belonging to a particular caste group like: osu, ume, diala, etc., making them strangers and unacceptable set of people. We segregate them and place ban on inter marriages and sharing with them and tag some 3rd class citizens in the name, “na ha biara abia…”(strangers).
A certain senator once reminded Donald Trump that America is a country of immigrants… “ANYI NILE BIARA ABIA” (we are all strangers- 1Chr.29:15). So, no one is a first class citizen and others 3rd class citizens. We now belong to the church of the first borns (Heb12:23). For example, I am from Urualla. Mbiagu, the founding father of urualla, migrated from Achina in Anambra State… So, how can someone from Urualla segregate one another in the name NA OBIARA ABI…?
(2) BE MINDFUL OF MISSIONARIES
Igbo traditional Religious has the culture of Ichuru arusi aja (sacrificing to the gods), probably with fowl, goat or cow. Most Igbos, even in this age still fear goats or fowls sacrificed to a particular deity, because of the fear of being harmed by the recipient deity.
Beloved in Christ, a missionary is one sent (Latin missio=to send). A messenger has a sender and, probably, a missionary works outside his community in the name of Jesus Christ. That is why Jesus says in the Gospel, “he who receives you receives me and he who receives me, receives he who sent me”.
Our people are blending towards victimizing, insulting, assaulting and banishing(ibu fada) missionaries, most especially, the youths of our age.
Even in his mistakes, he is not alone; pray for him and apply a hospitable approach when he or she is not at his or her best.
Many convoke clandentine meetings inorder to frustrate a missionary. Remember Jer.1:19, “every gathering that is not of God must surely scatter.” We are gradually losing sense of the sacred.
The Scripture warns, “touch not my anointed and do my prophet no harm” (cf. Ps.105:15).
(3) CARING FOR THE SICK AND THOSE UNDER HEALTH EMERGENCIES
From the introit story of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, we realize that hospitals in most parts of the world have lost focus and are directionless in actualizing its authentic and true meaning-“hospital” derived from the Latin hospes, signifying a stranger or foreigner, hence a guest. Another noun derived from this, “hospitium” signifies hospitality, that is the relation between guest and shelterer, hospitality, friendliness, and hospitable reception.
The COVID-19 era, has opened our eyes to the reality that some of our political criminals have not fared well in providing adequate health care and facilities for the masses, because we still see each other as strangers, instead of one family, humanity.
Most accident scenes have become selfie and studios, where people compete on who snaps, posts and reports first on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc., leaving the victims to die in a pool of blood, because they are strangers.
Hospitality invites us not to see each other as guests or strangers, rather, as one family where love and care take the lead.
A certain medical doctor who worked with the emergency department in one hospital, was alerted on phone that they had fatal accident emergency patients in their hospital. The doctor who tried to excuse himself, was persuaded by the nurse on duty to save the situation. Her persuasions ended with the warning, “anything less than attending to them tomorrow, count me off and don’t ring my line again”. The nurses had to apply the necessary first aid initiatives they could afford. At midnight, one of the accident victims, a 19 year old undergraduate of medicine, who struggled to live, died over a pool of blood. Lo and behold, it was realized at dawn that the young boy who died was the only son of the doctor… He never knew the emergency call was to save the life of his only son. He felt they were all strangers
Beloved in Christ, it is time to ask ourselves certain salient questions: •Have we really lost the sense of humanity?
•Do we still value and see one another as created in God’s image?
•Are we still sensitive to the plights of the needy?
•Does my presence brighten and add up smiles on the other or does it add up to their burden?
Let us have a rethink, yielding altruistic gestures of tolerance, generosity, empathy, receptivity, like the little children in the epilogue story, and above all, striving to please God by developing love for strangers.
MAY GOD BLESS AND OPEN OUR HEARTS TO ALWAYS YIELD TO PLEASING HIM THROUGH THE VIRTUE OF HOSPITALITY, AMEN.
GOD BLESS YOU
REV FR GERALD MUOKA