• Rev. Lawrence E. Polansky

13th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

"Whoever does not take up his cross is not worthy of me. Whoever receives you receives Me."

Entrance Antiphon: Ps 47(46):2 — “All peoples, clap your hands. Cry to God with shouts of joy!”

First Reading: 2 Kgs 4:8-11, 14-16a — “Elisha is a holy man of God, let him remain.”

Responsorial Psalm: 89:2-3, 16-17, 18-19 — “Forever I will sing the goodness of the Lord.”

Second Reading: Rom 6:3-4, 8-11 — “Buried with Christ in baptism, we shall walk in the newness of life.”

Alleluia: 1 Pt 2:9 — Alleluia, alleluia. “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation; announce the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light.” Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel: Mt 10:37-42 — “Whoever does not take up his cross is not worthy of me. Whoever receives you receives Me.”

Communion Antiphon: Jn 17:20-21 — “O Father, I pray for them, that they may be one in us, that the world may believe that You have sent me, says the Lord.”

Has anyone here ever stayed in a hotel or motel? I know ... that’s a ridiculous question since most of us have had the occasion to do so, at least a few times. For some of us, especially, pre-COVID-19, it may have been more often than we’d like to admit. What I’m wondering is if any of us has found ourselves choosing a place of lodging based on advertising slogans used by individual facilities or hotel/motel chains. Lines like: “The World’s Largest Hotel Chain,”(Wyndham) “The World’s Innkeeper,”(Holiday Inn) “Twice the Comfort, Twice the Value, Twice the Hotel.”(The Solitaire) And these last few are perhaps a bit more inviting: “Across the Street from Ordinary,”(Best Western) “We Love Having You Here,”(Hampton Inn) and “It’s Not a Hotel, It’s a Way of Life.” (Hilton)

A theme in both the Old and New Testaments is that of hospitality. A dictionary definition pretty well sums it up: “Friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers.” Yes, even strangers ... In our time, when there are so many reasons to protect and preserve ourselves, our families, and our communities. In these days, when many people are concerned about undocumented immigrants or potential perpetrators of crime or terrorism, or the COVID-19 virus, this may seem like an alien concept. The Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament are emphatic that we are called to be welcoming and hospitable to everyone.

The prophet Elisha demonstrates how God rewards those who extend hospitality. A woman of Shunem is impressed with the prophet and invites him to enjoy dinner with her. She and her husband make arrangements to provide even greater welcome and hospitality to Elisha on future visits. In thanks, Elisha blesses the woman saying that she will give birth to a son, a promise obviously made possible by the grace of God.

Saint Paul assures believers that, although our bodies will die, we already possess eternal life through God’s grace made visible through the Sacraments. All baptized persons have symbolically died with Christ through Baptism. As water was poured over our heads three times or as we were immersed, we were symbolically, imitating the burial of Jesus, following His suffering and death. Our rising up out of the water of Baptism is symbolic of Jesus’ rising from death. As baptized believers, we share in the life of the risen Jesus. Saint Paul reminds us that we must think of ourselves as dead to sin and to live accordingly. And this, of course, includes hospitality.

Jesus promises that kindness will be rewarded. Followers of Jesus will be asked to make sacrifices, including putting family in proper perspective, as we focus on Jesus. We must each take up our own metaphorical cross to follow Him. Jesus challenges us to let go of our lives in order to gain real life. Those who accept us and offer hospitality are acknowledging the Christ in us and will be rewarded as if they were doing so for Jesus Himself. And as we offer hospitality, we acknowledge the Christ in others.

I know I’m beginning to sound a bit like a broken record, but “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength; AND you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” All of God’s children deserve love, support, and hospitality because we are all one family. In reality, there are no guests, strangers, or visitors because we are all in God’s family. All lives matter. While both the Old and New Testaments promise rewards for our kindness, the ultimate reward is the awareness of belonging and being united. We are called to be both ministers representing Christ and His Church, and to be recipients of the kindness and generosity of others. Adopting the attitude of being in God’s family will build us up personally and affect those around us, in our communities, and in our world.

Inspired by God’s admonition to extend hospitality and welcome, let’s gather together around this table as one family ... made up of equal sisters and brothers.

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