Our readings this week speak to the requirements and challenges of discipleship. But they also highlight an important aspect of discipleship – hospitality. Hospitality is all about encountering the presence of God in others, seeing that presence and accepting it for what it is. Often, this encounter comes when we least expect it. Hospitality was one of the great virtues of the Bible. 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 when he says, “Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.
The virtue of hospitality is the virtue of recognizing the presence of God in others and nourishing this presence. When we practice this virtue, then the stranger among us is no longer a stranger, but a member of the family, welcome, like Elisha, to enjoy a room in our house. Often we miss the presence of God in others because we decide what this presence should be like. We are challenged in discipleship to let God be God and let God express himself in others, even if this expression is new or even foreign to us.
As Vincentians, those we minister to open their homes to us welcoming us on the home visits. Inherent in this on their part is a trust that we are people of God and people who truly care. Do we go to them in a spirit of hospitality opening our hearts and minds to the fears, the challenges and the presence of God within them? Do we have fixed in our minds what the presence of God should be like, or do we allow His presence to touch, shape and mold our hearts?
God, open my mind and my heart to your presence in all those I meet. Help me to set aside my anxieties and my preconceived notions of who and where you are that I might see you clearly in those before me. Grant that I may grow in the virtue of hospitality receiving all whom I encounter in true love and warmth.
I pray all of this in your Son’s name.