The common theme of today’s readings is the work God gives us to do as the followers of Jesus: to love God and our brothers and sisters through hospitality, generosity, commitment, and charity. The readings also remind us of the sacrifice demanded of Jesus’ disciples and the suffering they will endure for their Faith when they bear witness to him.
I like this story about how we see God in one another to know charity: There is an old legend about the famous monastery which had fallen on very hard times. Its many buildings were once filled with young monks, and the chapel resounded with the singing of the choir. But now it was deserted. People no longer came there to be nourished by prayer. Only a handful of old monks remained. On the edge of the monastery woods, an old rabbi had built a tiny hut. He came there from time to time to fast and pray. No one ever spoke with him, but whenever he appeared, the word would be passed from monk to monk: "The rabbi walks in the woods.” One day the abbot decided to visit the rabbi and bare his heart to the rabbi. As he approached the hut, the abbot saw the rabbi standing in the doorway, his arms outstretched in welcome. It was as though he had been waiting there for some time. The two embraced. As he entered the hut, he saw in the middle of the room a wooden table with the Scriptures open. They sat there for a moment, in the presence of the Book. Then the rabbi began to cry. After the tears and all was quiet again, the rabbi lifted his head. "You and your brothers are serving God with heavy hearts," he said. "You have come to ask a teaching of me. I will give you a teaching, but you can only repeat it once. After that, no one must ever say it aloud again." The rabbi looked straight at the abbot and said, "The Messiah is among you." The Abbot stood in stunned silence. Then the rabbi said, "Now you must go." The abbot left without ever looking back. The next morning, the abbot called his monks together in the chapter room. He told them that he had received a teaching from the rabbi who walks in the woods, and that this teaching was never again to be spoken aloud. Then he looked at each of his brothers and said, "The rabbi said that one of us is the Messiah." The monks were startled and thought to themselves: "What could it mean? Is brother John the Messiah? No, he's too old and crotchety. Is brother Thomas? No, he's too stubborn and set in his ways. Am I the Messiah? What could this possibly mean?" They were all deeply puzzled by the rabbi's teaching. But no one ever mentioned it again. As time went by, though, something began to happen at the monastery. The monks began to treat one another with a reverence. They were gentle with one another. They lived with one another as brothers once again. Visitors found themselves deeply moved by the genuine caring and sharing that went on among them. Before long, people were again coming from great distances to be nourished by the prayer life of these monks. And young men were asking, once again, to become part of the community. Jesus said, “He who receives you receives me.” Hospitality…because in one another we see the face of Christ. It is the first step in Christian Discipleship.
Today's Gospel lesson concludes Jesus' great “missionary discourse” in which he instructs the twelve apostles on the cost and the reward of the commitment required of a disciple. The first half of these sayings of Jesus details the behavior expected of his disciples, and the second half speaks of the behavior expected of others towards the disciples. Even Jesus’ shameful death on the cross is not too high a price to pay, if one is to be a true disciple, we must follow with our crosses and put God before all things thus we are able to love as Christ loves. Jesus assures his disciples that whoever shows them hospitality will be blessed. Those who receive Jesus receive the One who sent him. Also, those who help the "little ones," (believers) and the poor, the sick, and the needy will be rewarded.
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