Practing Hospitality, Pleasing Others

Sunday, July 15 (O.S., July 2), 2018: 7th Sunday after Pentecost; Placing of the Robe of the Mother of God.

Epistle: Romans 15:1-7/Hebrews 9:1-7
Gospel: Matthew 9:27-35/Luke 10:38-42; 11:27-28

Glory to Jesus Christ!

We have been looking at the importance of taking seriously the spiritual gifts that each of us has been given at baptism. The thing I want you to consider today is this: Because our personal vocations emerge out of the exercise of these gifts, hospitality is essential to the life of the Church.

Hospitality is not a matter of potlucks or fellowship meetings or open houses. Seen in the light of our baptismal vocation, hospitality is the willingness–the eagerness really–to support each other as we pursue our personal vocations.

This reveals a depth of meaning in Paul’s admonishment that we “who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak” and that we “not to please ourselves” but rather seek to “please” our neighbor.

This doesn’t mean giving in to each other. Rather, we are to act for the “good” of each other and for our mutually “edification.” This is only possible, however, to the degree that we each of us personally pursue the will of God for our lives.

So, again, hospitality is rather more encompassing–and serious–than potlucks, fellowship meetings, and community open houses.

In the full sense, hospitality means dedicating ourselves personally and as a community to fostering each other’s vocation. This is why St Paul tells us to “receive one another, just as Christ also received us, to the glory of God.”

Turning to the Gospel, we get a clear picture of what it means to practice hospitality.

Jesus doesn’t simply heal the blind men. He does first something He often does. He affirms the faith of the two men. In doing this He also creates the opportunity for them to affirm their faith in Him.

Jesus saying “Yes!” to the men is what makes it possible for them to say “Yes!” to Him.

In doing this, Jesus also ennobles the men. Or rather, He reveals to them–and to those around them–their true dignity. These men, blind and broken, poor and on the margin of society, though they are can nevertheless approach the Creator of the Universe and make a direct request of Him. A beggar can stand before the King and expect to have his petition not just heard but granted!

I suspect this as much as the restoration of their sight is what inspired the men to go and “spread the news about Him in all that country.” Even though Jesus told them to remain silent, experiencing the mercy of God and grasping for the first time their own value, these men became bold.

St John Chrysostom says that the “command to silence” was meant not to constrain the men but to rebuke “the religious leadership” of the Jews. As we see in the next verses, many among the Pharisees were hard-hearted. They refused to accept that “the crowds placed Jesus before everyone else–not merely before people who lived at the time but even before all who ever lived.”

Chrysostom goes on to say that the crowds put Jesus first not simply “because He was healing people but because He healed them quickly, …. easily” and of “countless” incurable diseases (“The Gospel of Matthew,” Homily 32.1, in ACCS, NT vol Ia, pp. 187, 188).

In other words, what Jesus does, He does freely and with authority. His love and mercy are not conditioned by anything other than His willingness to make right that which is wrong and broken in us.

As Jesus is for us, we must be not only for each other but for all we meet.

As Jesus is always ready to heal us, we must be willing to do for each other and all who we meet.

As Jesus reveals to us our true dignity and worth, we must do for each other and all who we meet.

My brothers and sisters in Christ! We hear today that the Theotokos is worthy of praise not because she gave birth to God but because she heard the word of God and keep it!

Today God speaks to us and tells each of us to practice hospitality. God calls each of us to assist each other in fulfilling our vocations. The details of these vocations are as different as the gifts we each have been given.

But for all that they, and we, are different, we share one vocation. To reconcile the world to God and to reveal to each person their true worth and dignity as those loved by God.

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory

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