2Kg 4:8-11, 14-16; Rm 6:3-4, 8-11; Mt 10:37-42
Hospitality is one of the overarching themes of the readings this Sunday. This is an important theme in the Old and New Testaments with many clear examples. In the first reading, we find a remarkable example of hospitality given by the Shunammite woman. Her hospitality is rewarded with favors from God. Through the intervention of the prophet Elisha she will get a baby boy, though the husband, is advanced in age. The point of the story is that creating space to welcome visitors can indeed unlock God’s blessings and favors.
In the gospel passage Jesus underlines the importance of hospitality in the life of his disciples. He tells his disciples that “whoever receives” them receive him and the Father who sent him. Those who offer such hospitality will receive an appropriate reward. In the Joy of the Gospel #114, Pope Francis has said that “The Church must be a place of mercy freely given, where everyone can feel welcomed, loved, forgiven and encouraged to live the good life of the Gospel.”
Here at St. John’s we try to take our Aloha Hospitality Ministry seriously, mainly because hospitality leads to a great sense of ownership and a vibrant parish community. When one arrives on our campus, the first thing one notices is a banner that says “Welcome to St. John’s: A Place to Feel at Home.” Our Aloha Hospitality Ministry has evolved to include “Parking Lot Ministry” “Greeters Ministry” that extends from the Lanai into the Church. We go long ways before Mass on Sundays to greet and welcome all visitors and new parishioners. We offer them leis as a sign of our welcome and hospitality. We realize that only when people feel welcome do they get a sense of belonging. A sense of belonging leads to being actively engaged in the life of the parish, and engagement opens the door to being equipped and formed for ministry and witness in the community in terms of evangelization. In welcoming new parishioners, we prepare them for witness in their own lives, so that they may be ready to evangelize others. The Shunamite woman in the first reading acted as Jesus urges in the gospel. She opened her herself and her home in hospitality to the prophet Elisha. In giving hospitality to Elisha she received her reward: the promise of a new baby boy.
You may wonder what reward we have received for offering hospitality to visitors and new parishioners. The results have been amazing. From 2015-2016 our parish added 267 new registered parishioners. There are two quick points for this Sunday. 1) In his generosity, God will always surprise us when we offer hospitality especially to strangers and his messengers. 2) Jesus underlines the importance of hospitality which is always given out of gratitude for what God gives us first.
©2017 John S. Mbinda