13 Sunday A

Fr. Jude Botelho:

Today’s liturgy centres on the theme of hospitality. Hospitality, as a virtue, is still practiced. We still visit people and most people make us feel welcome into their homes. In the first reading we see Elisha is welcomed by an elderly woman in Shunem, who urges him to eat some food. He is touched by the welcome hospitality and by the fact that whenever he passes that way he is offered a meal. Seeing that he is a regular visitor, the couple decide to build a small room so Elisha can rest comfortably. Touched by their generosity he decides to reward them. Finding out that they are childless, he promises them the gift of a son as God’s blessing on them.

As Gandhi stepped aboard a train one day, one of his shoes slipped off and landed on the track. He was unable to retrieve it as the train was moving. To the amazement of his companions, Gandhi took off his other shoe and threw it back along the track to land close to the first. Asked by a fellow passenger why he did so, Gandhi smiled. “The poor fellow who finds the shoe lying on the track,” he replied, “will now have a pair he can use.”
Author unknown

In today’s gospel Jesus instructs his disciples about how they have to be hospitable and welcoming even though they themselves may not be welcomed and may sometimes be rejected as they preach the good news. They will also experience the warm hospitality of some who will welcome them. He also reminds them that even a small gesture of offering a glass of water given in hospitality will be rewarded. The practice of receiving a guest or a stranger was common to many social groups at that time. It was a sacred duty practiced by many. The guest was treated with respect and honour and was provided with shelter. A significant feature of hospitality was Israel’s deep sense of God as its host. Israel treasured its identity as a pilgrim people. They remembered that their home belonged to God and that they like their ancestors remained pilgrims and passing guests in God’s house.

Modern Samaritan
A salesman had had a busy week and was returning to his home town. He stopped his car for a break at a roadside coffee shop. As he sat drinking his coffee he heard a girl quietly crying in the next booth. He didn't want to get involved but he was moved by her obvious distress. The girl was about 17, the same age as his daughter. Against his better judgement he introduced himself and asked if he could help. The girl, whose name was Lisa, told him that she was from a broken home and had got into bad company. She was into drugs and had turned to prostitution to pay for them. Moved as he was, he just bought the girl a meal and continued his journey. Later that evening he shared his experience with his family. His family suggested that he return to that town and try to find Lisa again and offer to help. He eventually located her. He discovered that she was but one of a number of girls in that town in similar circumstances who were being exploited by the pimps and drug pushers. He was so moved by Lisa's plight that he took her home to his family, and that started a ministry to try and get those girls off the streets. Out of that simple beginning over a cup of coffee that man now has three full-time workers and has seen scores of girls come off the streets and get their lives back together. The ministry became so successful that it earned the man a Presidential citation.
Ron Clark

Two Brothers
Two brothers worked together on the family farm. One was married and had a large family. The other was single. At the day’s end, the brothers shared everything equally, produce and profit. Then one day the single brother said to himself. “It’s not right that we should share equally the produce and the profit. I am alone and my needs are simple.” So each night he took a sack of grain from his bin and crept across the field between their houses dumping it into his brother’s bin. Meanwhile the married brother said to himself. “It is not right that we should share the profit and the produce equally. After all I am married and have my wife and children to look after me in years to come. My brother has no one, and no one to take care of his future.” So each night he took a sack of grain and dumped it into his single brother’s bin. Both men were puzzled for years because their supply of grain never dwindled. Then one dark night the two brothers bumped into each other. Slowly it dawned on them what was happening. They dropped their sacks and embraced one another.
Author Unknown from “More Sower Seeds by Brian Cavenaugh”

Finding God in my neighbor
One American family was travelling in their motor home through Alaska, when the axle broke and they were stranded in the middle of nowhere. So the father left the family in their motor home and began to walk in search of help. To his good luck, he came upon an isolated farmhouse. He knocked on the door and a very friendly farmer responded. When he learned of the man’s distress, the farmer just patted him on the shoulder and said he could help him. Without wasting a minute he got into his tractor, drove out and towed the motor house to his yard. And then, in a very short time, he used his welder and fixed the problem. The American family were extremely relieved and grateful. Taking out his wallet the father of the family offered to pay, but the farmer would have none of it. “It was my pleasure” was all he said. “As you can see, I live in isolation and often do not see anybody for weeks and even months. You have given me the pleasure of your company. That is more than adequate compensation.” The American family were greatly impressed. It certainly enhanced their belief in the essential goodness of human beings.
James Valladares in ‘Your Words, O Lord, Are Spirit, and They Are Life’

A little girl whose parents had died lived with her grandmother and slept in an upstairs bedroom. One night there was a fire in the house and the grandmother perished while trying to rescue the child. The fire spread quickly, the neighbours called the fire department, and then stood helplessly by unable to enter the house. The girl appeared at an upstairs window crying for help. Suddenly, a man appeared with a ladder, put it against the side of the house and disappeared inside. When he reappeared, he had the little girl in his arms. He delivered the child into the waiting arms below, and then disappeared into the night. As the child had no known relatives, weeks later a meeting was held to determine who would take the child into their home and bring her up. A teacher said she would like to raise the child. She pointed out that she could ensure a good education. A farmer offered her an upbringing on his farm. Others spoke, giving their reasons why it was to the child’s advantage to live with them. Finally, the town’s richest resident rose and said, “I can give this child all the advantages that you have mentioned here, plus money and everything that money can buy.” Throughout all this the child remained silent, her eyes on the floor. “Does anyone else want to speak?” asked the meeting chairman. A man came forward from the back of the hall. His gait was slow and he seemed in pain. When he got to the front of the room he stood directly before the little child and held out his arms. The crowd gasped. His hands and arms were terribly scarred. The child cried out, “This is the man that rescued me!” With a leap, she threw her arms around the man’s neck, holding on for dear life, just as she had that fateful night. She buried her face in his shoulder and sobbed for a few moments. Then she looked up and smiled at him. "This meeting is adjourned" said the chairman.
Author unknown

Fr. Tony Kadavil:

1) Catholic Worker Houses of Hospitality.

The eighth of November marks the 120th anniversary of the birth of Dorothy Day (November 8, 1897November 29, 1980), the uncanonized saint of the homeless, an American journalist turned social activist and a devout member of the Catholic Church. She was also an outspoken advocate for the poor.   For most of her life she agitated for better treatment of the disadvantaged.    The Catholic Worker Movement, which she started in May 1933, was a further extension of her interest in the poor.   With the help of her friend Peter Maurin she revived the idea of hospitality once fostered by monasteries.  All were welcome:  the poor, the downtrodden and losers.   She also started the first House of Hospitality where she could care for the poor. Dorothy and Peter suggested that every Catholic parish should have such a place of hospitality. Today there are nearly 175 of these Catholic Worker Houses of Hospitality.  “Those who cannot see the face of Christ in the poor,” she used to say, “are atheists indeed.”  "If I have achieved anything in my life," she once remarked, "it is because I have not been embarrassed to talk about God." In today’s Gospel, Jesus instructs Christians on how they should be hospitable and generous.

2) Saints and preachers who lived for others as Jesus did:
 John Chrysostom, who lived in the fourth century, was one of the most powerful preachers in Church history. Yet, he devoted more time and energy to the poor than to preaching. He established many Christian charities, hospices, and hospitals for the destitute. Bernard of Clairvaux, a Cistercian abbot and renowned monastic theologian and preacher, led many people to Christ. He also established a network of hostels, hospices, and hospitals that survive today. John Wycliffe, who translated the New Testament into English, led a grass-roots movement of lay-preachers and relief workers who ministered to the poor. General William Booth was a Methodist preacher when he started The Salvation Army. Dwight L. Moody, one of the best known of all the pastors in America established more than 150 street missions, soup kitchens, clinics, schools, and rescue outreaches. [John Wimber and Kevin Springer, Power Points (New York: Harper San Francisco, 1991), p. 189.] The Christian Faith is about giving. We only have to survey the ministry of Jesus to see that. There was nothing self-serving in anything Jesus ever did. He was truly the Man for others. And he called us to be men and women for others. At the very heart of our Faith is a spirit of giving
3) Amish hospitality:
Years ago, on a trip through the Amish country of Pennsylvania, I took the occasion to visit several of the shops. Many of them had signs of greeting hung on the door or in the window, which read, “Welcome! There are no strangers here -- only friends we haven’t yet met.” In keeping with the sign was the warmth and kindness with which visitors were received and tended to. Unfortunately, hospitality such as this has become an uncommon, albeit pleasant surprise in today’s world. But it was not always so. In ancient times, hospitality was considered a sacred duty and in scripture the patriarchs were cited as models of this virtue (Genesis 19:2; 24:17-33; 43:24). Recall, in particular, the visit of Yahweh to Abraham (Genesis 18:2-8); Abraham and Sarah’s generous welcome of their guests was rewarded with the promise of a son. (Patricia Datchuck S├ínchez). As Xavier Leon-Dufour [Dictionary of Biblical Theology (Geoffrey Chapman, London: 1973)] once explained, Hospitality was to be valued as a work of mercy as well as a means of witnessing to the faith. The visitor who traveled through and requested assistance (Proverbs 27:8, Sirach 29:21-27) was to be regarded as a living reminder of Israel’s former struggle as enslaved strangers in Egypt (Leviticus 19:33-34). The stranger in need was also to remind Israel of its present status as a wandering pilgrim on earth (Psalm 39:13, Hebrew 11:13, 13:14). Today’s Gospel reminds us that the hospitality and generosity expected of us should be given here and now.

4. Funny truths:

You may sleep in the Church, but don’t snore. William Muehl, professor of preaching at Yale Divinity, spoke the following famous words to generations of seminarians: "Always remember that most of the people you have on a Sunday morning almost decided not to come, to stay in bed and sleep instead.” Hence, it is no wonder that a recent study in Great Britain found that 42 percent of regular Church-goers fall asleep in Church. Ever feel like yawning in Church yourself? This'll wake you up: "Yawning is of medical importance because it is symptomatic of pathology such as brain lesions and tumors, hemorrhage, motion sickness, chorea and encephalitis." So says a 1987 University of Maryland report in the journal “Behavioral and Neural Biology.” So, while you're yawning, be sure to tell yourself: "Don’t worry. There's only a small chance it's a tumor."

5. Southern hospitality:
Two ladies, a Yankee and a Southern Belle, are sitting next to each other on a plane. The Southern Belle turns to the Yankee and asks, "So, where y'all from?" The Yankee replies, "I am from a place where we do not end our sentences with a preposition." Without missing a beat, the Southern Belle bats her lashes and asks, "So, where y'all from, rude lady?"

6. Overdose hospitality:
A farmer, who went to a big city to see the sights, asked the hotel's clerk about the time of meals. "Breakfast is served from 7 to 11, dinner from 12 to 3, and supper from 6 to 8," explained the clerk. "Look here," inquired the farmer in surprise, "when am I going to get time to see the city?"
Now I would like to stop the world for just one minute and ask you to think back. Think back with me to the first century. Think about those 50 years after Jesus' death and what it must been like for Jesus' disciples. Before the last one died their efforts had brought 500,000 men, women, and children into the ranks of the church. But what they had to suffer in order to accomplish this task is seldom discussed. We like the outcome of their discipleship but we don't want to hear the cost of discipleship. So for the record here is the cost: History tells us...
1. John died of extreme old age exiled to the island of Patmos.
2. Judas Iscariot, after betraying his Lord, hanged himself.
3. Peter was crucified; head downward, during the persecution of Nero.
4. Andrew died on a cross at Patrae, a Grecian Colony.
5. James, the younger, son of Alphaeus, was thrown from a pinnacle of the
Temple, and then beaten to death with a club.
6. Bartholomew was flayed alive in Albanapolis, Armenia.
7. James, the elder son of Zebedee, was beheaded at Jerusalem.
8. Thomas, the doubter, was run through the body with a lance at Coromandel, in the East Indies.
9. Philip was hanged against a pillar at Heropolis.
10. Thaddeus was shot to death with arrows.
11. Simon died on a cross in Persia (what we now call Iran.)
12. Matthew was first stoned and then beheaded.

What sacrifices! And I ask you why? Why did they choose to die this way? Why desert your father and mother, your wife and child, and your home? Why put up with the constant humiliation, and hunger, and persecution, and defeat town after town after town?

I'll tell you why, because, in the words of Apostle Paul, they were held captive by the words and teachings of Jesus Christ. It is Paul's way of saying they were slaves to Christ...
It is every parent's dream. It goes like this . .

Your child is a guest at someone's home. Maybe a friend or a relative. When the meal is over, your child is the one who, without being told, spontaneously rises from the table, gathers their plate and even grabs another place setting, and takes them into the kitchen and put them either in the sink or in the dishwasher.  

What parent doesn't live with the eternal hope that our ten thousand nudges to our kids -- "pick that up" and "put that in the trash" and "did you forget where the laundry basket lives?" -- will finally "stick"?  

These reminders are not about household cleanliness. They are teaching a new generation of disciples about being thoughtful, compassionate, helpful, and loving followers of Jesus.  

Discipleship is, by definition, something that is "learned." The Greek word for disciples or "mathetes" means literally learner as well as follower. Jesus himself said, "Learn of me." (Matthew 11:29). Part of what it means to be a "disciple" is to teach a new generation of disciples.  

The whole sporting world is all about "World Cup" madness right now. In the USA we call it "soccer." In the rest of the world it is called "football." For those who love the sport, which seems to be all of the world with the singular exception the US, all eyes are on Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, as teams like Ghana and Germany, Nigeria and Argentina duke it out for a world championship.
But the biggest story out of Rio may not about a winner, but about a loser...
Shake It Off!

One of the greatest deterrents to our spiritual progress is our inability to shake off the things done to us by others. We can't get on with our lives because we are still angry and hurt by another's sin against us. We must find ways of redirecting our antagonism into something higher. We must channel our hurt, our anger, our despair, and our disappointment into something positive. Let go. Unpack the baggage. Stop wallowing in the quagmires of the past. Get your passport stamped and move on to higher ground, to your next destination.

Jesus exhorts his disciples in Matthew 10. If the people do not receive you, don't get stuck. Don't waste your life away crying crocodile tears; "shake" the dust from your feet and keep on moving. Don't get put in spiritual, emotional, and psychological jail by the things other people do to you. After it's done, don't give them the keys to your jail cell by living in solitary confinements of unhappiness and pain. Get out of jail, pass go, and collect two hundred!
Carlyle Fielding Stewart, III, Joy Songs, Trumpet Blasts, and Hallelujah Shouts, CSS Publishing Company
We Replace the Lamb

In that marvelous vision known as the "Peaceable Kingdom" (which we find in Isaiah 65), there is the image of the wolf and the lamb feeding together. Well, let me tell you a story about that. Back in the days of pre-perestroika Russia ... when hers was a name that made all of us tremble: the Russians brought an exhibit to the World's Fair that was entitled "World Peace." In it was a large cage. And in the cage were a little lamb and a Russian wolf ... feeding peaceably together. As an exhibit, it was most impressive. And as the fair unfolded, it was spectacularly attended. One day, however, somebody asked the curator the obvious question: "How in the world do you do it?" To which he replied: "Oh, it's really very simple. We replace the lamb every morning."

William A Ritter, Collected Sermons,
Simple Caring 

For several weeks, Mrs. Sherman's first-grade class had waited for the field trip to the observatory. Notices had been sent home with instructions about the bus, lunch, and times of departure and return. To the students, waiting for the field trip was like waiting for Christmas. 

Finally, the day arrived. We grabbed our lunches and coats and lined up for the bus. In the back of the room, one boy began to cry because he had forgotten to bring a lunch and would have to stay behind with another teacher. In a few minutes, the other children had contributed extra sandwiches, fruit, desserts, and drinks until the boy had a feast for his lunch. With new tears, this time tears of gratitude, he grabbed his coat, lined up, and climbed onto the bus.

We had given him a "cup of cold water." Acts of service are not always dramatic or earth-shattering. Simple caring is all that is needed. Discipleship means being alert for opportunities to care, to demonstrate God's loving-kindness, and to teach others to do the same.
Gene Blair

The Tool of Discouragement 

There is an old legend about Satan one day having a yard sale. He thought he'd get rid of some of his old tools that were cluttering up the place. So there was gossip, slander, adultery, lying, greed, power-hunger, and more laid out on the tables. Interested buyers were crowding the tables, curious, handling the goods. One customer, however, strolled way back in the garage and found on a shelf a well-oiled and cared-for tool. He brought it out to Satan and inquired if it was for sale. "Oh, no!" Satan answered. "That's my tool. Without it I couldn't wreck the church! It's my secret weapon!" "But what is it?" the customer inquired.
"It's the tool of discouragement," the devil said.
In the text Jesus is talking to the church about their attitude and deportment toward the prophets God sends among us as shepherds. He speaks frankly about acceptance and rejection, about kindness and trust. In short, he promises that in the minister's success among us shall come our own reward

Stephen M. Crotts and Stan Purdum, Sermons For Sundays: After Pentecost (First Third): Hidden In Plain View, CSS Publishing Company, Inc.
 God Still Thinks about You 

Helmut Thielicke says that during World War II, his students often wrote from the battlefield saying, "I am so exhausted from marching, my stomach is so empty, I am so plagued with lice and scratching, I am so tormented by the biting cold of Russia and so dead tired, that I am totally occupied, without the least bit of inner space for any speculative thinking." Sometimes they would write that they were too weak to leaf through the Bible and were even lazy about the Lord's Prayer. Dr. Thielicke would reply, "Be thankful that the Gospel is more than a philosophy. If it were only a philosophy, you would just have it as long as you could keep it in mind and it could afford you intellectual comfort. But even when you can no longer think about God, he still thinks about you."

Herchel H. Sheets, When Jesus Exaggerated, CSS Publishing Company
Cast-off Items 

John Bowes, chairman of the parent company of Wham-O, the maker of Frisbees, once participated in a charity effort. He sent thousands of the plastic flying discs to an orphanage in Angola, Africa. He thought the children there would enjoy playing with them. 

Several months later, a representative of Bowes' company visited the orphanage. One of the nuns thanked him for the wonderful "plates" that his company had sent them. She told him the children were eating off the Frisbees, carrying water with them, and even catching fish with them. When the representative explained how the Frisbees were intended to be used, the nun was even more delighted that the children would also be able to enjoy them as toys. 

On one level, that story is rather amusing. On another, it is very sad. There are people who would prize even our cast-off items, who would be grateful to eat what we throw away. 

King Duncan, adapted from Gary B. Swanson, Frisbees and Guerillas
Whoever Welcomes You, Welcomes Me

Recently I was sent this story. The author said, I saw him in the church building for the first time on Wednesday. He was in his mid-70's with thinning silver hair and a neat brown suit. Many times in the past I had invited him to come. Several other Christian friends had talked to him about the Lord and had tried to share the good news with him. He was well respected, honest, a man of good character. He acted much like a Christian would act, but he never came to church or professed Christ. After I got to know him well and we had talked about a wide range of subjects I asked him if he had ever been to a church service.

He hesitated. Then with a twisted grimace told me of an experience he had as a boy. He was raised in a large family. His parents survived the depression but they struggled to provide food and clothing for the family. When he was around ten years old a friend invited him to go to church with his family.

He went - the Sunday School class was great. The songs were fun to sing and the stories, oh the great Bible stories, were exciting to hear. He had never heard anyone read from the Bible before. As class ended the teacher pulled him aside and said, "Son, please don't come again dressed as you are now. We want to look our best when we come into God's house."

He looked down at his old hand me down overalls that were certainly worn and tattered. He thought about that for a moment and said softly, "No ma'am I won't ever." Then he looked at me, the author wrote and said, "And you know what... I never did." It was clear that he was done with that conversation.

The author reflected, I am sure that the Sunday School teacher meant well and in fact was representing the feeling of the majority of the folks in that church. But what if, what if she had put her arms around the dirty little boy in the ragged overalls and said, "Son, I am thrilled that you came this morning and I hope you will come every chance you get to hear more about Jesus because he loves you so much." Moreover what if she would have talked with her pastor or her friends in the church and mobilized a full blown outreach effort to help this family make ends meet. 

What if that church would have thought, Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Or whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple will receive a great reward (v. 40 & 42)

The story ended like this: Yes I saw him in the church house for the first time on Wednesday and I cried as I looked at the immaculately dressed old gentleman lying there in his casket. He was looking his best. But all I could think of were those words of an impressionable little ten-year-old boy echoing in my mind, "No ma'am I won't ever." 

David Wiggs, Who Needs a Welcome?
Self-doubt: Burning on the Bottom of the Pan 

I remember an old story about a kindergarten teacher wrote a song about popcorn and then had her class crouch down on the floor as they sang it. At the appropriate point in the song, all the children would "pop up." The teacher had them "popping" all over the classroom. 

One day, during the popcorn song, the teacher noticed that one little boy remained crouched down when all the other children popped up. "What's wrong?" the teacher asked. "Why aren't you `popping' like the other children?"

The little boy replied, "Cause I'm burning on the bottom of the pan."

 Some of us are like that little boy. We feel like we are burning on the bottom of the pan. We feel like we have no worth as persons. 

Billy D. Strayhorn, How God Gets His Kicks
All You Have to Do Is Look Up 

A substitute Sunday School teacher couldn't open the combination lock on the supply cabinet. So she went to the pastor for help. The pastor started turning the dial of the combination lock, stopped after the first two numbers, looked up serenely toward heaven, began moving his lips silently, turned to the final number, and opened the lock. 

The teacher gasped, "I'm in awe of your faith, pastor."
"Really," he said, "it's nothing...