Mission Society of the Philippines

Homilies

13th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME: WHOEVER WELCOMES YOU, WELCOMES ME

Mt 10: 37-42


I WOULD SAY that the common theme that we find in today’s First Reading (2 Kings 4:8-16) and the Gospel (Matt 10:37-42) is the theme of “welcome” or “hospitality”.

In the First Reading, we heard about a Shunamite woman who offered meal to the prophet Elisha. The woman also provided Elisha a small room on the roof of the house, containing not only a bed, but also a table, a chair, and even a lamp. Elisha thought of repaying the goodness of the woman. When he learned that the woman was childless, Elisha blessed and promised the woman that, on the following year, she would be holding a son in her arms. Thus, the woman, because of her gestures of hospitality and kindness, received a wonderful reward.

In the Gospel, Jesus spoke of the theme of welcome. He said that whoever welcomes them (his disciples), Him, a prophet and a righteous man, will receive a reward. The reward promised to the Shunamite woman who welcomed and gave hospitality to the prophet Elisha foreshadows the promise contained in the Gospel. Jesus said, “Whoever receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet's reward”. 

Let us go back to the whole gospel text and take some important points for our reflection.

The first part of the gospel actually carries another or a different theme: the cost of discipleship. Jesus reminds his apostles about radical discipleship. Jesus says, “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me.” There is nothing wrong with loving every member of the family. It is expected that parents should love their children and vice versa. However, if that love is in conflict or it affects our following of Jesus, then a problem arises. Among the priorities, God should come first. Moreover, following Christ also brings discomfort to the believer. This may not be felt in relatively peaceful or serene countries. But in countries where Christians are a minority and are persecuted at the same time, they feel the discomfort. They have experienced the pain or the cross of following Christ.

In the second part of the gospel comes the theme of welcome and hospitality. Jesus said, “Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me. …. 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.” If we try to read some stories of the early missionaries, we would find some “sad” stories, as well as “beautiful” stories. Some stories are sad because the early missionaries had experienced opposition from the local people. Though some of them had gained a few followers, but later, they were persecuted and martyred for their faith. The beautiful stories are success stories. By success, I mean they were received by the local people without hesitation, and the Gospel of Christ was also wholeheartedly accepted. And Jesus promises reward to those who are hospitable to his disciples.

Let us reflect further on the theme of “welcome” or “hospitality”. I would say that it is a universal value and a value that every human being shares with each other. Every country has its own brand of hospitality. Every language has its distinct word for welcome. One can find that in every airport of seaport. And upon reading it, every arriving passenger would feel that he or she is welcome in a host country.

However, nowadays, this value seems to have disappeared. Because of terrorism or imminent terror attacks, international governments are taking precautionary measures. Unfortunately, some have overdone it because their measures have created an atmosphere of fear of or hatred to foreigners. In that sense, they are no longer welcoming and hospitable.

I think the word of Jesus is a continuing challenge for us, especially in these difficult times. He challenges every Christian to remain receptive of Him. He challenges every believer to be welcoming to the missionaries. He challenges us to be also welcoming to strangers. Amen.

 


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