God Shows no Partiality, He Heals all, He wants a Church Full with People.
Week One: 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
Readings: Isaiah 35:4-7; James 2:1-5; Mark 7:31-37
Last week we talked about the vision for St. Thomas More parish – “Come encounter Christ! Joyfully share his love! Go make Disciples!” This week we begin another homily series on “The Art of Hospitality.” Why hospitality? Because we want those we invite to our weekend Masses and other celebrations, to truly encounter Christ, and experience his love through each one of our parishioners.
What is hospitality?
What is hospitality? It is from the Greek word “philoxenia” which means “to love strangers”. In many passages of the scripture we are commanded to be hospitable. For example, in Romans 12:13; Hebrews 13:1-2; and the popular saying of Jesus in Mt. 25:35, “I was a stranger and you welcomed me”.
I would like to ask you a question. If you were a stranger in another church, how would you like to be welcomed? Look at our church from the eye of a stranger: What does the weekend Masses on Saturday/Sunday look like for the person who does not yet belong to our church?
There was a story of a pastor who disguised himself as a beggar and was begging at the entrance of his church. Many people coming to worship ignored him, only two people reached out to him. You know, that person could have been Jesus Christ. How would you welcome Christ if he enters our church today and is sitting beside you? Well, Christ is in everyone we meet, so welcome the person sitting beside you as if he or she was Christ.
When I was in East Chezzetcook, we had a memorial Mass for the mother of one of our deacons. His sister who has been away from church for many years came to Mass to accompany the family. She was warmly received by the hospitality ministry in the foyer. She felt so much loved and decided to come back to her faith.
Our parish STM is a welcoming and hospitable parish, but we want to be more intentional about it. Hebrews 13:1-2 says, “Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing so, some have entertained Angels unaware.”
What do we want you to know about hospitality?
When we come to Mass, we come to encounter a loving God who cares for all his children. He does not show partiality, he welcomes everyone. God’s heart is for a Church full with people from every background.
At the time of Jesus, illness and disability would ostracize someone from their community, as the Jews saw it as signs of their sinful state before God. But Jesus has a different attitude towards the sick and sinners. He has an attitude of compassion and love. He heals people who are on the margins of society in order to bring them back to the community of believers, as we see in the healing of the deaf and dumb.
In the Gospel we see Jesus leaving the Jews, and goes to the Decapolis for the first time: the region of the pagans. He heals not only the Jews, but also the pagans, signaling that the Kingdom of God is even bigger than the Apostles expectations, and he even begins preaching to the pagan people. Jesus goes to all people. He’s focused on those who are not in the covenant.
Why does it matter?
Our churches don’t always reflect God’s plan to reach out to those on the margins of society and welcome them to the Church.
Jesus was focused on those outside of his inner-circle. In our hospitality and pastoral ministry, are we focused on those who are not yet in our Church? We need to focus on the work of evangelization. That’s why we joined Divine Renovation Network and are running Alpha.
St. James exhorts us in the readings today, “My brothers and sisters, show no partiality as you adhere to the faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ.” (James 2). Welcome all, regardless of clothes, social status, rich, or poor.
What do we do now?
- Warmly welcome people with a smile; look around you in the church, if you notice anyone new, introduce yourself to him/her. (Let’s begin to practice “Pew hospitality).
- Hospitality is the work of all parishioners but we invite you to Join our new hospitality ministry.
- Think of one person who you could invite to the Church, and invite them to join you at Alpha this September 21. Take an ALPHA invitation card at the end of Mass and give to someone, tell him/her to come for a free meal and sharing on questions about life and faith.
“Don’t screw up!”
A guest who is attending our Mass may represent years of prayers and invitation by a church member. As someone said in Divine Renovation “my mom and I attended church without my father for 12 years. The first time my dad came to church with us, imagine how I felt about the church and the hospitality of the people. All I could think inside my head is, “I hope the Pastor and the people don’t screw up”.
May the Lord help us to be hospitable and welcoming to all, may he continue his healing ministry through us, and use us to reach out to the unchurched and marginalized, so that his church might be full and his Kingdom established. We ask this through Christ our Lord, amen!