Today’s readings remind us that the new life we’ve received in Christ, a new life we live even now as Christians, is not only due to Our Lord’s sacrifice on the cross, but is also a pattern of life that we should be following to engender new life.
In today’s First Reading an influential woman receives the promise of a son after showing hospitality to the prophet Elisha because he was a man of God. This woman saw something of God in Elisha, and that something moved her to invite Elisha to dine. She extended her hospitality expecting nothing in return. However, she didn’t limit her hospitality to just a few meals: she prepared a place for Elisha to stay when he was in town. Her hospitality and generosity were a sacrifice of her time and treasure for the sake of the Lord’s mission. Serving Elisha was serving the Lord too. With no children on the horizon she and her husband’s line were destined to come to an end. Through her selfless sacrifice she and her family received new life with the promise of a son.
In today’s Second Reading Paul reminds us that it was sacrifice and death that brought us new life in Christ, and we must also sacrifice and die to ourselves so that Christ’s life may take hold of us and engender a new life. We speak of the “old man,” condemned to death due to original sin, as dying in baptism so that the new man, born in Christ through Baptism, may begin a new life. It doesn’t matter how old or how young you were when you received baptism; you were an “old man” in sin and were born of water and the Spirit through Baptism, making the old man perish and his sins, original or otherwise, along with him. This death and new life take place spiritually and sacramentally through Baptism, but one day, just as it did for Christ, it will take place for real: death awaits us all someday, but if we believe in Christ, new life awaits us too. Sin leads to death, so the more we deaden ourselves to sin, denying ourselves and sacrificing ourselves for others as Christ did, the more the new life in Christ can take hold of us and make our new lives flourish.
In today’s Gospel we see that hospitality to others is hospitality to Our Lord. The influential woman of today’s First Reading, by helping Elisha, helped the Lord and was blessed for her hospitality. Even today, as Our Lord reminds us, when we serve others, especially those who are serving the Lord, we are serving the Lord himself. He’s also very good at hiding in the people you’d least expect. True hospitality is not stingy. A guest knows when the host is doing the minimum to satisfy some social obligation or curry favor: skimping on the food and drinks, keeping the event brief, etc. Our Lord today invites the disciples to examine why they are serving others: are they really serving themselves in some way, trying to gain something for their service, or are they truly serving them because they serve the Lord? Our Lord warns us that we must take up our cross in serving others, and even lose our lives, but also promises that in the end he will take care of us too if we focus on caring for him through caring for others.
There are so many ways we can practice Christian hospitality, which in a way is synonymous with Christian charity. It’s not dinner parties (although it’s very gracious to organize them). It can be as simple as making a sandwich or some cookies for homeless people. It can be helping at a food kitchen, homeless shelter, clinic, or halfway house. It can be welcoming a scared young mother or foster child into your home who needs some stability and a safe place to stay. Big or small, you are not just loving the persons involved; you are loving Christ.
Readings: 2 Kings 4:8–11, 14–16a; Psalm 89:2–3, 16–19; Romans 6:3–4, 8–11; Matthew 10:37–42.