The Primacy of God and a Case for Hospitality
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew 10:37-42.
Jesus said to his apostles:
“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;
and whoever does not take up his cross
and follow after me is not worthy of me.
Whoever finds his life will lose it,
and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
“Whoever receives you receives me,
and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.
Whoever receives a prophet because he is a prophet
will receive a prophet’s reward,
and whoever receives a righteous man
because he is a righteous man
will receive a righteous man’s reward.
And whoever gives only a cup of cold water
to one of these little ones to drink
because the little one is a disciple—
amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward.”
A Vietnamese priest who got recently ordained and who grew up with me in the theologate is unsettled at the lavish concern that Filipino Catholics give to priests. It is a point of teasing between us but it does show the Catholic culture we have in the Philippines. It is indeed unsettling for us who chose to serve at the altar since we very well know of our own weaknesses and how much we do not deserve the honor. Yet by faith, we accept it for by faith we believe that the devotion the People of God lavish on priests and ordained ministers are not to the persons themselves but to Christ.
It simply amazes me that the Spanish missionaries were able to inculcate in our society this instinct for Christ in the ministers. The danger these days however is to forget the faith that underlies the devotion. In fact, other sects deride Catholics for this seemingly unrealistic practice. Jesus in today’s Gospel invites His believers to a culture of hospitality for those He has sent. It is not about the person sent but the message that the apostle (apostolos in Greek means “sent”) bears for the Christian community. That is the reward for hospitality and devotion promised by the Lord.
The message or Good News is none other than Christ. So the reward for accepting the messenger into one’s home and one’s heart is certainly greater than that of the prophet or the righteous one. We ordained ministers bring Christ to the people of God. There is no proof for this other than our witnessing and preaching and only the eyes of faith can see Christ in the minister. The minister for his part has to believe this in a greater degree since the pull of doubts can sometimes douse the flame of the Gospel.
All in all, everything revolves around Christ and it is Christ who holds everything together. Thus our love for Him must transcend everything else even familial ties. For all other loves exist because of the Love of Christ. Only Christ gives meaning to everything.