Hospitality was one of the great virtues of the Bible. That’s what the story of Elisha in today’s first reading is about. The ancients believed that each person should be welcomed as though one were welcoming God himself. Jesus moves this virtue into Christian times in today’s Gospel, “Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me. Whoever receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet's reward, and whoever receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man will receive a righteous man's reward. And whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink because the little one is a disciple--amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward.”
The virtue of hospitality is far more than being a good host at a dinner party. Hospitality means encountering the presence of God in others, usually in those whom we least expect.
Sometimes we, get so self-absorbed in our own expressions of spirituality, that we miss the presence of the Lord as he stands right before us in our family or as he knocks on the door of our homes and our lives through other people. For example, we can make the mistake of thinking that our particular expressions of spirituality be they within the Catholic faith or within the general context of Christianity are exclusive. If another person doesn’t pray as we pray, express the presence of the Almighty as we express His presence, we might miss the Lord as He is standing right before us in a person that we least expect to meet Him.
This is what the people of Jesus’ time did. The scribes and Pharisees were so self-absorbed with their ways of practicing the faith that they missed God speaking through John the Baptist, saying that he was a fanatic, and they missed God’s presence in Jesus, saying that He was just common every day man, eating and drinking like all others. There is a wonderful parable about this in Luke. Jesus says, “These people are like children in the marketplace.” Their Moms dragged them there and normally the kids would play, but instead they argued saying, “we played the flute and you wouldn’t dance, we sang a dirge and you wouldn’t weep.” The girls were playing the flute and boys would do the wedding dance of the groomsmen. They would play wedding. Or the boys would sing a sad song, and the girls were supposed to wail like professional mourners. They would play funeral. Only the children in the parable wasted time arguing.
The people of Jesus’ day wasted their opportunity to experience the presence of God because they decided what this presence should be like. So also, we often miss the presence of God in others because we decide what this presence should be like. We need to let God be God and let God express himself in others, even if this expression is new or even foreign to us. Jesus said, that whoever receives the Him receives the Father. Let’s be sure we understand that Jesus has sent many to us who, though may not be just like us, are worthy of being warmly received by us.
The above was taken from a homily by Father Joseph Pellegrino