Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Homily / July 17,2016

You have heard me talk about the Ladies of Charity who operate a ministry in the Martin Center, the building directly across the street from the church.  They offer donated clothing for children of poor families.  But I always tell the women that one of their outstanding gifts is their hospitality.  I’ve been in the building when the women greet people who are coming to pick out some clothing for their children.  I know from speaking with some of the people that it’s a terribly humiliating experience to have to ask for help from others.  But the Ladies of Charity are some of the most hospitable, non-judgmental people I’ve ever seen.  They welcome people with the greatest dignity and respect, and not judging them because they are poor.  I’ve told the Ladies of Charity that they need to teach us Capuchins how to be more welcoming and hospitable – that’s how good they do it.

The Scriptures today speak of hospitality – the hospitality of Abraham in the first reading, and the hospitality of Martha and Mary in the Gospel.  Each gives us a lesson about the best of hospitality.  In the person of Martha, we recognize how we can offer hospitality, but if it isn’t offered with the right attitude, it is an empty hospitality.  It does not communicate care and welcome; it communicates complaint and inconvenience.  Martha was bothered that her hospitality was not recognized; Mary got all of the attention, and Martha was doing the manual labor.  She reminds us that our best efforts are empty without the right attitude.

In the story of Abraham, we are challenged to welcome the stranger in our midst.  It’s easy to welcome those we love and treat them well.  But how do we welcome strangers?  The second reading today had a great line in it that spoke of the great mystery of God.  And St. Paul writes, “That mystery is Christ in you.”  That presence of Christ is not only in us, but in all people, and it’s our challenge to recognize Christ in the stranger we encounter.  Here’s a good example: don’t raise your hand, but answer this question for yourself – do I greet strangers that I pass on the sidewalk?  We connect one another with our eyes, but often I’m guessing we look away or don’t say anything at all.  Why do we do that?  The message of Jesus tells us that we are all sisters and brothers to one another.  Still we shy away from even greeting those who are strangers in our midst.

We are still reeling from the shootings of black men in Louisiana and Minnesota and the deaths of police officers in Dallas.  Last week, when demonstrations were going on all over the country, there was a video of two groups of counter-protesters who crossed over to each other and embraced one another in a sign of unity and friendship, despite their opposing viewpoints.  We need to do the same.  We need to cross the boundaries that threaten to separate us and find out what unites us.  We need to look for Christ in others, and especially in strangers.  We need to show hospitality to others, for when we do, we show the Christ that is within us.