November 3, 2019 — Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time
In this day and age, it is all too easy to view each other with suspicion or at least a certain guardedness. We are told at the airport to watch out for our luggage and report any suspicious activity. We install security systems in our homes and alarms on our cars. We scroll through our phones in waiting rooms rather than make eye contact and small talk with the people sitting near us.
Of course, it’s wise to be prudent in our dealings with people. But stewardship calls us to a different outlook towards others. It calls us to approach everyone with an open heart; not through a lens of suspicion but quite the opposite — through the lens of loving hospitality.
This is the attitude our heavenly Father has when He looks upon creation, as we see in our first reading from the Book of Wisdom. “For you love all things that are and loathe nothing that you have made… you spare all things, because they are yours, O Lord and lover of souls, for your imperishable spirit is in all things!” What a loving and kind Father we have who sees the goodness in all of His creation and, in particular, all of His children. God’s “imperishable spirit” is in every person, because every person is made in God’s own image and likeness.
Far deeper than good manners or a superficial exchange of pleasantries, the virtue of hospitality is the outward expression of this way of seeing people as God sees them. If we are willing to practice true, radical Christian hospitality in our daily lives, our families, workplaces, and our parish can be transformed.
Jesus models this transforming hospitality in His encounter with Zacchaeus, the tax collector, in today’s Gospel reading from Luke. The passage begins, “At that time, Jesus came to Jericho and intended to pass through the town.” Our Lord had plans that day and a mission to fulfill. He did not intend to stop in Jericho. But Zacchaeus was in Jericho and Zacchaeus needed Jesus. So our Lord, who is the epitome of hospitality, graciously set aside His plans for the sake of the tax collector.
Not content with just exchanging a friendly hello with Zacchaeus, Jesus seeks him out of the crowd and insists on having dinner in his home. “Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house.” This was a gesture of intimacy and true fellowship in that day and culture. The gesture was scoffed at by the crowd who viewed the tax collector with suspicion.
But Jesus saw the goodness within the man. Our Lord’s open and welcoming attitude (His hospitality) called forth that goodness and Zacchaeus was transformed instantly. “Behold half of my possessions, Lord, I shall give to the poor, and if I have extorted anything from anyone I shall repay it four times over.”
Let us Christian stewards resolve to practice radical hospitality towards everyone we encounter this week. Let us pray that God will open our minds and soften our hearts to those around us so that we are ready to set aside our own plans for their sake, find the goodness within them, and call it forth as Jesus does for each one of us.