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The gift of hospitality

Two themes emerge in today’s Gospel: the cost of being a Christian and the hospitality expected of Christians. Hospitality has been watered down to mean friendly treatment of guests or strangers. But originally it had deeper significance. Hospitality and hospital come from the same Latin word, “hospes” meaning a guest or host/hostess. Christian hospitality led to the building of hospitals and hospices, (lodgings for travelers), because Christians saw in those who for one reason or another had to travel, and especially in the sick and suffering, Jesus himself.

Medieval monasteries often served as motels: travelers were treated as guests and given food and lodging. Over the main door was a motto: “Hospes venit, Christus venit.” (When a guest comes, it is Christ who comes). Guests were treated to hot meals, but if after a while they wore out their welcome, they were served a cold shoulder of lamb or beef. Hence the expression, ‘to give someone the cold shoulder.’

Elisha was treated as a guest by a woman in Shunem who provided him with a room, bed, table and lamp whenever he was in the neighbourhood because she recognized him as a holy man, one sent by God. As a reward for her hospitality she was blessed by God with the promise of a child even in her old age.

Hospitality is not just extending kindness to a guest or stranger. It is doing so because we see Jesus in the person. Jesus says that those who give a cup of cold water in his name will not lose their reward. Where there is true hospitality, both guest and host/hostess receive new life; there are no losers. With love,

Fr. Wojtek Kuzma


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