Date: Sunday, June 28, 2020
To appreciate Sacred Scripture, we must try to understand the culture of the people in which the Word of God is received and formed. Travelling in the biblical world is a dangerous enterprise. Water is not always available. Springs and wells are owned by the clan or tribe. Inns, places for food and rest, are rare. Travelers depend on the hospitality of people they meet along the road. In the Book of Genesis, Abraham and Sarah extend hospitality to three strangers. By becoming hosts, they “entertain angels unaware.” Hospitality to angelic visitors is blessed with the conception and birth of a son, Isaac. In our 1st Reading, 2nd Book of Kings, a woman of means and influence extends hospitality, food and then a room on the roof, to Elisha, the prophet, a Holy man of God. For this kindness, Elisha promises: “This time next year you will be fondling a baby son.”
The biblical custom of hospitality to strangers is valued in a society that prizes family, clan, and tribe as the highest loyalty. The paramount importance of family and blood ties make the sayings of Jesus in the Gospel according to Matthew very shocking. “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me…” Jesus is asking the apostles to break the cultural norm. One’s family is the primary source of help and security when misfortunes arise. He is insisting on devotion to himself and for the apostles to conceive of themselves as being part of God’s family. God’s family will consist of the disciples of Jesus and of all those who receive their message and welcome them. In welcoming the disciple, they are welcoming Jesus and becoming part of God’s family. Even offering a cup of water will not go unnoticed.
We are in the last week of the Catholic Charities Appeal. I thank our parishioners who have been able to contribute to the Appeal which coincides with the spread of Covid-19, the struggle for racial justice and public discord. Catholic Charities provides essential services, the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy, to help individuals and families in need and to assist people who have lost their way. The Patron Saint of the Appeal this year is Joseph, the carpenter, who takes Mary into his home as his wife and names her son, God’s son, Jesus. As an adult, Jesus will tell his disciples to pray by addressing God as “Abba” an informal and affectionate name for one’s Father. Jesus is encouraging those associated with him as his spiritual sisters and brothers, to see themselves as God’s children. We are all part of God’s family.
I end with the Catholic Charities prayer: “St. Joseph, patron of our diocese, help us build relationships within our community that strengthen and empower those who need it most. Let our carpenter tools of compassion, love and justice create a better world for those who are poor and most vulnerable. Help us find the means to make WNY a better home through the 2020 Appeal. We ask in the name of Jesus through your intercession. Amen. St. Joseph pray for us.”