From the Deacon’s Desk: Prayer and Inspirational Thoughts
“Brothers and sisters: are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?” Our readings this week make very clear the requirements and challenges of discipleship. When we choose to follow Jesus, he calls us to be all in. In Baptism, Jesus claims us as his and our spiritual life becomes inextricably linked to his. We are intimately united to Christ. Our relationship is nourished and strengthened through the sacraments – particularly the Eucharist. We are called to make Christ and his ministry the central focus of our lives – above any and all other relationships.
Wow! That seems harsh. But Jesus is not saying our relationships with family, our spouses and our neighbors are not important. Quite the opposite. Those relationships will be strengthened when we make our relationship to Jesus foundational within them. Next to Jesus, all other relationships are secondary, even those relationships that carry the greatest impact in our lives. Jesus Christ must be the center and goal of these relationships. If He is not, then even our most cherished relationships are destructive instead of life giving.
Relationships grounded in the ministry and love of Jesus Christ help others to encounter the presence of God in one another. Our readings 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. During these challenging times of social distancing, quarantines and physical detachment, seeking the presence of God – and extending His hospitality is both more difficult and more important than ever.
As Vincentians, those we minister to open their hearts and lives to us. Inherent in this on their part is a trust that we are people of God and people who truly care. In home visits, they could look us in the eyes and see who we are – hopefully people of God. We are called to bring God’s presence to the fore in their lives that they may see the hope that is his. How do we bring to them a spirit of hospitality? How do we allow His presence to touch, shape and mold our hearts as well as theirs?
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. Give me the grace to make your presence visible through my actions, my words and my presence even when not physically close. I pray all of this in your Son’s name. Amen