Monday, May 19, 2014

Bestowing His Goodness

Monday of the Fifth Week of Easter

We proclaim to you good news that you should turn from these idols to the living God, who made heaven and earth and sea and all that is in them.  In past generations he allowed all Gentiles to go their own ways; yet, in bestowing his goodness, he did not leave himself without witness, for he gave you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, and filled you with nourishment and gladness for your hearts.”  Acts 14:15b-17

“Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.  John 14:23

Chapter 53: The Reception of Guests
All guests who present themselves are to be welcomed as Christ, for he himself will say: I was a stranger and you welcomed me (Matt 25:35).  Proper honor must be shown to all, especially to those who share our faith (Gal 6:10) and to pilgrims.  Once a guest has been announced, the superior and the brothers are to meet him with all the courtesy of love. (RB53:1-3)

Jesus sometimes speaks in parables which are hard to understand.  However, in these Last Supper discourses, while he breaks bread and drinks wine with his friends, he extends the metaphor by describing heaven as a feast of incomparable proportions.  For a people living in a barren desert of a land, knowing that God provides for everything from their basic needs for food and drink to their higher needs of love and community, has particular resonance.

We hear this imagery in the Hebrew Bible:  On this mountain the LORD of hosts will provide for all peoples A feast of rich food and choice wines, juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines.  Isaiah 25:5

We hear it in the New Testament gospels and epistles:  One of his fellow guests on hearing this said to him, “Blessed is the one who will dine in the kingdom of God.”  Luke 14:15

That you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom; and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.  Luke 22:30

And we hear it in the final book of Revelation:  “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, [then] I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me.  Revelation 3:20

Seminal documents such as The Rule of St. Benedict also address the table of plenty.  Often in its short pages, you will find chapters devoted to the Qualifications of the Monastery Cellarer, Distribution of Goods According to Need, The Proper Amount of Food, the Proper Amount of Drink, the Reception of Guests, Clothing and Footwear, the Reception of Visiting Monks, and more.

In these terms, is it any wonder why hospitality is at the core of our faith? 

What better place to focus this week on “holy hospitality” than in the Holy Land where Pope Francis heads May 24-26 in a search for Christian unity.  In our lifetime, the holy land has been anything but a place of hospitality and more like a place of “holy hostility” with the Six-Day War of 1967, the Intifada, fights for control of the Sinai Peninsula, the Golan Heights, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and on and on and on with almost endless examples of attacks and counter attacks since May 14, 1948 when the modern state of Israel was formed.

Catholic News Service notes that “But inevitably, in a region so rich in history and so fraught with conflict, he will address other urgent issues, including dialogue with Jews and Muslims, the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and the plight of the Middle East's shrinking Christian population.” 

Maybe he should suggest that all people receive each other as guests with “proper honor…be shown to all.”

Let your prayers accompany Pope Francis on this mission of peace, unity and hospitality between nations, churches and neighbors.

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