September 9, 2018 —Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
This Sunday’s readings once again illustrate the timeless message of stewardship interwoven throughout the Word of God. Today’s readings offer beautiful illustrations of two of the “Four Pillars of Parish Stewardship” — hospitality and service — and the joy that a life lived for others can bring.
The first reading from Isaiah starts off with a powerful message of hope meant to be shared. “Say to those whose hearts are frightened: Be strong, fear not! Here is your God, he comes with vindication; with divine recompense he comes to save you. Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared.” What a message of encouragement and consolation the prophet is instructed to give!
By virtue of our Baptism, we modern-day prophets are entrusted with this same message. We, too, are called to share the good news of salvation with others, starting in our own families and circle of friends and extending to all in our parish and community. Sharing this Good News is the true goal of hospitality.
In our second reading, from the letter of St. James, we see that all are equally worthy of our hospitality. “If a man with gold rings and fine clothes comes into your assembly, and a poor person in shabby clothes also comes in, and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say, ‘Sit here, please,’ while you say to the poor one, ‘Stand there,’ or ‘Sit at my feet,’…have you not become judges with evil designs?”
Clearly, we are to welcome and serve everyone who walks through our church’s doors, extending warmth and a dignified greeting to all. The person who wanders in late to Mass, who is not dressed to our personal standards, may be just the person who is most in need of the message of hope we read of in Isaiah this week. Sometimes we can offer that message simply with a smile and offer to come and sit next to us in “our” pew.
The Gospel reading from Mark gives further illustration of hospitality and service, and the connection between the two. In this passage we find Jesus on the go, and “people brought to Him a deaf man who had a speech impediment and begged Him to lay His hand on him.”
These people had already heard the Good News that Jesus was preaching. In response, they reached out to a man who literally could not hear and brought him close to Jesus so that he could receive the Good News, too. This is true service. This is hospitality at its finest.
Jesus responds immediately to this act of service and hospitality, opening the deaf man’s ears and removing his speech impediment! And what about the people whose service and hospitality had made this encounter possible? Jesus blessed them for it, confirming their faith to such a degree that they were “exceedingly astonished” and could not stop themselves from proclaiming the miracle they had witnessed.
This scripture passage illustrates a wonderful aspect of stewardship living – we simply cannot outdo our God in generosity. The more we give of ourselves to welcome and serve others for His sake, the more He blesses and strengthens our own faith. This week let’s challenge ourselves to step out of our comfort zone to reach out to someone who needs to hear the Good News of Jesus. We may just find ourselves astonished at what miracles He accomplishes!