Homily for the 13th Sunday of the Year

Homily: 13th Sunday, Year A, 2023

Most of us can relate to a sense of “information overload” from time to time. There are: flyers in the post, spam emails, telemarketers on the phone, and pop-up adverts on the internet browser.

We can also relate to unexpected requests interrupting our activities. Here at the parish, because we are painting the exterior of the church, the doorbell or telephone rings always at the most inconvenient time to ask a question about where to paint next. And just when we think alone time might be peaceful, even when alone at prayer, distractions enter the mind from within. No wonder, from time to time, many of us want to escape. A priest friend of mine once said to me, overwhelmed by all the detractions and busyness: “all I want is a log cabin in the forest, far away from everyone…but with WIFI”

In light of this information overload, and the busyness of life, it is easy to see faith, and the duties of faith, such as attending Mass, as another thing on top of many others. Yet, today’s readings invite us to think differently, to recognize faith isn’t another thing, but is instead what influences how we respond to the distractions and busyness of life. The principle seems to be: faith is evident through our actions.

For example: in the Gospel today, Our Lord teaches that whoever offers even a cup of water to ease the thirst of a disciple will not lose his reward in heaven. In other words, while being interrupted can be a chore, how we respond to that interruption is a direct expression of the condition of our faith. Similarly, while school and work are a means to an end, the people we associate with, the way we conduct ourselves, the way we dress, and the language we use reflects the faith.

And who can forget what Our Lord said about those in need: when we clothe those without clothes, when we feed those without food, when we visit the sick and the lonely, it is always Christ whom we meet and serve.

So, we can see, or we should see, that faith isn’t something to fit in, another thing on top of many others. Faith influences our response to distractions and busyness, and faith directs our actions, or it should.

Today’s readings emphasize one aspect of the relationship between faith and action, namely the virtue of hospitality. We see this clearly in the first reading when a wealthy family hosted the prophet Elisha and his companions when they passed. Their generous hospitality resulted in Elisha praying to God that they might conceive a child, which they did. We can

In the Gospel today, Our Lord teaches that whoever receives his disciples into their home receives Jesus. This hospitality is evident today whenever we priests visit the sick or home bound. In these moments, the priest recognizes Christ in the sick, and the sick seem to recognize Christ in Our Lord’s fallible priests. Through this exchange, both are blessed.

The most beautiful and certainly the most profound hospitality for a Christian is at Holy Mass. Yes, we are hospitable to each other, but there is a more profound hospitality we are called to when we enter prayer. We welcome Jesus’ words by way of an attentive listening to the Scriptures, and we welcome Jesus’ body when we receive him into ours through the Holy Eucharist. Receiving him, we ask him to make his home within us. Like the centurion, we receive Him mindful of our unworthiness; and like Elizabeth and John the Baptist, we rejoice as we recognize him hidden under the appearance of bread and wine; and like Our Lady, who carried Our Lord within her body, we graciously allow Him, having entered out bodies, to rewrite the story of our lives. Our receptivity to the real presence of Jesus requires an openness, a generous hospitality.

As we know, sometimes hospitality calls for preparation. Confession is the best preparation for the reception of Jesus. Through the sacrament our conscience is cleansed as the grace of baptism is renewed, so that when Our Lord enters we might hear him say to us: “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.”