Matthew 10:37-42, 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time
God’s word to us today is simple and clear: we are to be hospitable to those God sends to our life.
From the old French, the word “hospitable” itself means “to receive a guest”, to play host to someone who comes to us from outside.
It is of course all too easy to welcome the visitor who is familiar, the one who belongs to our circle, the one we believe we can trust. In the Gospel, we are told to welcome three kinds of guests who God sends to visit us at various times in our lives. These three are a prophet, a holy person, and the “little one” who asks us for a cup of water.
We are told to welcome the prophet, the one who makes us squirm in our seats, the one whose words we sometimes do not like to hear. We are to open our door to the prophet who opens the windows of our lives to realities we do not like to accept. We are asked to look at the truth of what they see. We are to offer them a seat at our table so we can listen to them when they challenge our little ideas and even bigotry, our false certitudes and fundamentalist portraits of God and neighbor and reality. We are told not to be dismissive of them because to be so is to be dismissive of God who sends them to us.
Our Lord also tells us to welcome the holy person in our midst, not just the pious person who sometimes looks otherworldy, but the one with the ordinary face who nonetheless has the power to enlarge our heart; the one who quickens our desires, the one who makes us look beyond the horizon. God tells us to be hospitable to these common saints who are somehow able to draw forth what is holy and lovely and transcendent about us. We are told not to close the door on them because to do so would be to shut the door on God and on our own selves.
And thirdly, we are told to open our door to the little one who is a disciple, the one who asks us for a cup of water. Just a cup, mind you. Nothing costly or lavish. It can be the person who needs our simple presence and understanding, not so much our big advice or solution. It can be someone who asks for our prayers, for our silence or just a bowl of our patience to help tide that person over. Such a guest can be literally little as a child who asks us for a cup of water or rice or anything to fend off the rootlessness and hunger. We are asked to open our door to such a guest because to do this for the little one of God is to do so for God.
We are to be hospitable to the prophet who speaks the truth to us, the holy person who makes our heart swell, and the little one of God who awakens our humanity.
We are to consider it a grace when these three kinds of guests call on us from time to time. To welcome them is to welcome God who sends them to our lives.
These three guests need not be three different persons. They need not even come from the outside. Such a guest can be a long-lost friend, a newborn child in our family, or someone old who summons us to be larger than ourselves.
Such a guest can be like the mom of Cheryl who had Alzheimer’s. In her blog post of 21 August 2013 (https://chermor2.wordpress.com), Cheryl writes:
“It is hard to see Mom changing and confused and upset. But she still has sweet times of love and joy, too. And God still has a purpose for her life.
“He is growing our patience as we care for her. He is developing our tenderness and mercy. God is giving us opportunities to show love to a dear mom who loved us all so well when she was able and strong. He’s sending us smiles and laughter with Mom’s quirky ways and funny words. He’s challenging us to love faithfully when she is angry and difficult.
“People with dementia are still people. And God still has a plan for their lives. Even when they are bedridden and can do nothing at all, maybe their very life keeps us clinging to God more. Maybe their very existence draws us closer to God as we seek Him and cry out to Him.”
We sometimes seek God in all sorts of places. Today we remember. He is to be found no farther than the guests he sends to grace our lives.