Today’s first reading and the Gospel stress the importance of hospitality shown to the bearers of God’s word and in particular to strangers. Hospitality is the hallmark of every Christian. How strange all of our homes are always open to receive sunshine, fresh air but not always open to receive a child of God, especially when one comes in poverty. Hospitality is a beautiful thing. But nowadays hospitality is very different from the old days when nobody locked their doors and windows. So sad that those days are gone. Today is the day of locks, bolts, chains, peep holes, alarm systems etc. and yet there is more need than ever for hospitality and friendliness. Today, more than ever, there is a lot of loneliness, strangers and displaced people. Hospitality shown to a friend is not a big deal because there is no risk involved and moreover there is an understanding that the favour will be returned. But hospitality to a stranger is a great thing because more risk is involved.

But Christ is inviting us to welcome the strangers in our midst. To be hospitable means that we accept them as they are. This will enable them to shed their strangeness and become members of the community. Jesus says that anyone who gives one of his disciples even a cup of cold water will be rewarded. In a sense, a cup of cold water is not much. This is the biblical expression to say that a cup of cold water to another person could make a big difference to that person. A cup of cold water in the desert could mean life and death. This shows that our deeds need not be big in order to mean a lot. In fact, small deeds and small gifts are at times very important. In another word, small gestures can tell us more about a person’s character than big gestures.  Again, it is not how much we do, but how much love we put into what we do, that counts in the end. The spirit in which any deed is done is important. All deeds that originate from our hearts have a good quality.

The woman in the first reading who showed great hospitality, was rewarded just because of her true love for the other. So also, in the New Testament, Priscilla and Aquila were simply doing what all other Christians ought to do. But the giving of hospitality and a readiness to open our homes to strangers seems to be something of a dying practice in the world today. The letter to the Hebrews (13:2) says, “Do not forget to entertain strangers for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.” Hospitality is one of the best tools which the Christian has to spread the good news everywhere. Real hospitality given to an unbeliever reveals the true nature of a Christian, so that an unbeliever sees the light of Jesus Christ shining through the believer. True Christian hospitality should be an introduction into a warm fellowship which can result in good friendships being made and spontaneous further visits.

The many ways that the Sacred Heart Church of the First Peoples is living out this gospel, with many projects and activities, has garnered the attention of many. A few months back, during an on-line discussion of moving forward together, one of the panelists in Eastern Canada held up a copy of the parish Sunday bulletin, read out some of the activities such as drum making, beading, making sandwiches and Cree language instruction, and urged all those listening to follow that lead. The hospitality lived out by this parish is a shining light for others.

By Susai Jesu, OMI
OMI Lacombe Vocation Team