PROVIDING HOSPITALITY TO THE MINISTERS OF GOD
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [2 KGS 4:8-11, 14-16; ROM 6:3-4, 8-11; MT 10:37-42 ]
In the gospel today, the Lord said to His disciples, “Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me; and those who welcome me welcome the one who sent me.” All disciples of Christ, especially those who are in full-time ministry or ordained ministers are called to represent Christ just as Christ represents the Father. A priest who is an ordained minister of God represents Christ in person, in persona Christi. This is because he acts in the person of Christ to the people of God. Of course, this is true for every true disciple of Christ because we are all called to be salt of the earth and light to the world. However, for an ordained minister, he is called to represent Christ as the head of the community acting “in persona Christi capitis.”
Accordingly, the Christian community must accord welcome to His ministers as the Lord commands in today’s gospel. Jesus said, “If anyone gives so much as a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is a disciple, then I tell you solemnly, he will most certainly not lose his reward.” This was what the woman at Shunem did. When she met Elisha, she knew that he was a holy man of God. She immediately offered him welcome and provided him a meal as he stopped by for a rest. But more than just offering him a meal, she discussed with her husband about providing him accommodation as well so that he could rest there. This woman was attentive to the needs of Elisha. Such was the kindness and hospitality of the woman shown to God’s prophet.
The people of God have a responsibility to look after its ministers and all full-time workers in the Church. This is because they have dedicated their lives for the service of the people of God. In the gospel, Jesus instructed His apostles, “As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment. Take no gold, or silver, or copper in your belts, no bag for your journey, or two tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for laborers deserve their food. Whatever town or village you enter, find out who in it is worthy, and stay there until you leave.” This is particularly so because ordained ministers of the gospel provide all their services without charge; they are dependent on the goodwill and kindness of those whom they serve freely and generously. This is true of Catholic priests, most of whom do not receive a salary but a small allowance or a stipend for their personal needs. Of course, praise God, everything else from food to transport to accommodation and medical bills are paid by the Church. All this is possible only because of the generosity of our people in caring for their priests. As a result, our priests in Singapore are never in want or in need!
This hospitality of our people extended to our priests is however a mutual hospitality. It presumes the ministers of the gospel are truly concerned for the people of God. Jesus said, “The labourer deserves to be paid” provided the labourer is hardworking and self-sacrificing. (Lk 10:7) The principle of life is that we bless those who bless us. So if the minister brings blessings to the people or to the household, it is a normal response to return the blessings they have received. Indeed, we are all blessed so that we can bless others with the blessings we have received. This was what the Lord said, “Anyone who welcomes a prophet because he is a prophet will have a prophet’s reward; and anyone who welcomes a holy man because he is a holy man will have a holy man’s reward.” The ministers of God are called to be a blessing to the People of God by guiding them to walk the way of truth and love, counselling and instructing them in the ways of God; and most of all, to pray and intercede for them for God’s mercy. They are to cure the sick and cast out devils. They are to bring Jesus to them through the celebration of the sacraments.
Elisha brought blessings to the woman who gave him hospitality. Although she was wealthy, she was childless. It seems she came to accept the situation and resigned herself to being without children. Elisha wanted to show his gratitude by offering to connect her with the king and his officials so that she could solicit some favours from them. But she was not interested. Elisha consulted his servant, “What can be done for her then?” Gehazi answered, “Well, she has no son and her husband is old.” And so Elisha called her and promised her, “This time next year, he said you will hold a son in your arms.” This was what Christ said, “If anyone gives so much as a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is a disciple, then I tell you solemnly, he will most certainly not lose his reward.” Indeed, when we bless others, God blesses us even more in return. St Paul himself taught, “God loves a cheerful giver. God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work. He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness.” (2 Cor 9: 6-10)
In this regard, whether we are full-time ministers of the gospel, lay, religious or clerical, or just disciples of Christ, we are called to be a blessing to all. This is the goal of the ministers of the gospel, to make the people of God a blessing to the world. All are called by virtue of our baptism to grow to become more Christ-like. This is what St Paul asks, not just of ministers but of every Christian. We who are baptized are called to die in Christ. “When we were baptised in Christ Jesus we were baptised in his death so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the Father’s glory, we too might live a new life. When he died, he died, once for all, to sin, so his life now is life with God; and in that way, you too must consider yourselves to be dead to sin but alive for God in Christ Jesus.” Striving against sin and living the new life of Christ helps us to become a blessing to others. Otherwise, our sinful nature will surface and cause people to lose confidence and respect for us, especially the ministers of the gospel.
Above all, we must be willing to suffer for the greater good of all. “Anyone who does not take his cross and follow in my footsteps is not worthy of me. Anyone who finds his life will lose it; anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it.” Unless, ministers are really concerned about the gospel, about our Lord, and ready to sacrifice their lives for the sake of the gospel, even at the prospect of carrying the cross of trials and tribulations, of being misunderstood and taken for granted, one cannot truly be a minister of the gospel. Every minister must share in the passion of our Lord in order to witness to His resurrection. One becomes a minister not to enjoy a life of luxury but to put himself at the service of all until death, becoming a slave to all, as Jesus did. As Christians, it is not enough to help those who are grateful to us. We must continue also to help those who are self-centered or difficult to love so that our love will eventually win them over. The Church comes not just for good people but for selfish people as well. So as ministers of the gospel, let us continue to give without counting the cost and regardless of whether people appreciate what we do for them. What is important is that we are doing what is right and at peace in God’s eyes.
Hence, we must thank God for those ministers that help us to grow in holiness by helping us to make Christ the center of their lives. The Lord said, “Anyone who prefers father or mother to me is not worthy of me. Anyone who prefers son or daughter to me is not worthy of me.” Within this context, we can appreciate why the ministers of the gospel in the Catholic tradition, priests and religious are celibate. They are called to give themselves fully to Christ and to serve Him and His Church. St Paul said, “there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.” (Mt 19:12) Paul a celibate himself also gave his personal take, “The unmarried man is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to please the Lord; but the married man is anxious about the affairs of the world, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided. And the unmarried woman and the virgin are anxious about the affairs of the Lord, so that they may be holy in body and spirit.” (1 Cor 7:32-34)
However, it does not mean that those who are married are unworthy of the Lord or that their vocation is lesser. It means that even in married life, God must be placed above our spouse and our loved ones. Only when we love Jesus first, can we truly also become His ministers of love to our spouse, parents and children. Without placing Christ at the center of our lives, we are distracted, we lose focus and instead of loving them, we seek to possess them and make them like us instead of making them like Christ! Instead of imparting to them the values of the gospel, we only impart our insecurities and the values of the flesh and the world. So putting Christ at the center of our life is the only way we all can become a blessing of joy and love to all.
Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore © All Rights Reserved
Best Practices for Using the Daily Scripture Reflections
- Encounter God through the spirit of prayer and the scripture by reflecting and praying the Word of God daily. The purpose is to bring you to prayer and to a deeper union with the Lord on the level of the heart.
- Daily reflections when archived will lead many to accumulate all the reflections of the week and pray in one sitting. This will compromise your capacity to enter deeply into the Word of God, as the tendency is to read for knowledge rather than a prayerful reading of the Word for the purpose of developing a personal and affective relationship with the Lord.
- It is more important to pray deeply, not read widely. The current reflections of the day would be more than sufficient for anyone who wants to pray deeply and be led into an intimacy with the Lord.
Note: You may share this reflection with someone. However, please note that reflections are not archived online nor will they be available via email request.