A reflection on the Mass Readings for July 17, 2022, the 16th Sunday of Ordinary Time.
Over the last 25 years I have travelled to many countries and places. I am always struck by the hospitality of people around the world. Different people are hospitable in different ways. For example, there is a big difference in how families express hospitality in India and in America. In America, when people invite guests for dinner, it is hospitable for the hosts and guests to sit around the table and share the food. In India, the guests rarely sit with the hosts, except the children. The hosts stand around the table serving the food and drinks to the guests. It is their responsibility to make sure that the guest’s plate or glass is never empty, to make sure that the guests have tasted every dish, and that they have eaten till they can eat no more.
This cultural difference in hospitality reminds us of today’s gospel reading. Mary and Martha welcomed Jesus into their home. But they were hospitable in different ways. Martha made sure Jesus had everything he needed but Mary sat at his feet. Imagine if they both sat at the feet of Jesus. He would be hungry that day. Imagine if they both were distracted with serving. Jesus would feel left out. Even though the gospel reading tells us that Mary chose the better part, I believe that Mary and Martha show us two different ways to be hospitable.
Today, I want to connect our spirituality and hospitality. Here are my three points.
Prayer as hospitality
Have you ever thought about prayer as hospitality? The time we set aside for prayer, the kind of attention we give to God, our commitment to spending time with Christ regularly, our disposition at Mass can all be seen as acts of hospitality. Mary, sitting at the feet of Jesus, is a powerful image of prayer. There were no distractions, no anxieties, no hurry. Despite her sister buzzing around her like a bee, she sat there at the feet of Jesus. Martha did not love Jesus any less. Jesus did not rebuke her because she was a bad person or because she was doing something wrong. In fact, Martha was being hospitable in a different way. But perhaps Martha was too distracted by external things like we can be.
Are we too distracted a people? If we compare the amount of time we spend on our phone versus the time we spend in prayer, how does it compare? Do we get so busy and so distracted that we have no time for God? Are we in time or in a hurry to get out when we come before God either in prayer of for Sunday worship? Does God feel welcome in our tent like God did at Abraham’s tent? Does God get time to sit and talk with us like Jesus did with Mary?
This week, find ways to be hospitable to God.
The Eucharist as Hospitality
I want to reflect on the Eucharist as God’s hospitality. In its most basic format, the Eucharist is a meal. The Last Supper was the very first Eucharist. The Last Supper was a meal. The Last Supper was a Passover meal. The original Passover was also a meal. When the angel of death passed over Egypt and brought freedom to the Hebrew people, their journey began with a meal. Since then, for centuries, the people of God celebrated their redemption with a meal. Jesus revolutionized the Passover. A meal that was designed for the Hebrew people becomes a universal meal. The entire world comes to the Eucharistic table. No matter who we are and no matter what part of the world we are in, God spreads a table for all peoples. Even more, everyone who comes to God’s table become connected. We become one body in Christ. Even more, we are all invited to the eternal table in heaven. This is the marvel of God’s hospitality.
Welcoming Diversity as Hospitality
Hospitality is not limited to our homes, our prayer, and the church. The hospitality in our spiritual life must extend to our life in the community. I think of the many immigrants in this country. It is important that we treat immigrants well. Often, they experience inhospitality and sometimes it is a matter of life and death.
When I look at the relationships within my parish’s Hispanic community, I see people from many different countries, different cultures, and different socio-economic backgrounds. Some are documented and many are not. Some are bilingual and others only speak Spanish. Some are from North Latin America, some form South Latin America, and others from Central America or other countries. And I, their pastor, am from India. Our skin colors differ and the work we do differs. But I believe that the hospitality we expect should be the hospitality we offer every other person. If our status, the color of our skin, the country we come from, the language we speak becomes a way for us to exercise power or to look down on other people, then we put ourselves at risk.
For example, in today’s first reading, the three strangers who visited Abraham were angels. Abraham did not know that when he invited them to his tent and served them. Unknowingly, Abraham and Sarah’s hospitality ended up being a blessing for them. All those blessings would have been lost if they had discriminated and treated the strangers inhospitably. The danger for us is this – that if we are not hospitable to all, no matter what someone’s background, status, and nationality might be – we might miss angels, and consequently, many blessings.
We are Christian and we are Catholic. Catholic means universal! We are a Eucharistic people. We are called to imitate divine hospitality. Please, let us be agents of change. Please, let us be a hospitable and welcoming people. Please, let us be like Abraham, like Mary and Martha, like Jesus.
At God’s table, and we are served salvation! This is divine hospitality. May our lives replicate the Eucharist a as we develop and spirituality of hospitality.
Image: By Владимир Шелгунов – фотографии переданы представителем ИППО, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=33504499
Fr. Satish Joseph was ordained in India in 1994 and incardinated into the archdiocese of Cincinnati in 2008. He has a Masters in Communication and Doctorate in Theology from the University of Dayton. He is presently Pastor at Immaculate Conception and St. Helen parishes in Dayton, OH. He is also the founder Ite Missa Est ministries (www.itemissaest.org) and uses social media extensively for evangelization. He is also the founder of MercyPets (www.mercypets.org) — a charitable fund that invites pet-owners to donate a percent of their pet expenses to alleviate child hunger. MercyPets is active in four countries since its founding in December 2017. Apart from serving at the two parishes, he facilitates retreats, seminars and parish missions.