Invite the Poor
There was a pastor of a protestant religion who was having difficulty with his assigned parking space on the church parking lot. People parked in his spot whenever they pleased, even though there was a sign that clearly said, “This space reserved.”
He thought the sign needed to be clearer, so he had a different sign made, which read, “Reserved for Pastor Only.” Still people ignored it and parked in his space whenever they felt like it. “Maybe the sign should be more forceful,” he thought. So he devised a more intimidating one, which announced, “Thou shalt not park here.” That sign didn’t make any difference either. Finally, he hit upon the words that worked. The sign read, “The one who parks here preaches the sermon on Sunday morning!”
After that sign was displayed, nobody took the space reserved for this pastor maybe because they were afraid to preach the sermon on a Sunday morning. Or probably, they felt uncomfortable about doing that because of the lack of experience and training.
But what then is your ministry? The Gospel reading selected for today sets before us a vision of a common ministry that all of us can be a part of and can afford to do. I would call it something like: a ministry of hospitality.
Jesus invites us to be especially welcoming the unfortunates like: the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind and others of this world through giving without expecting any return. For it is only by giving freely that one grows as a person. It is because giving demands a measure of self-sacrifice. It doesn’t impoverish, but rather enriches the soul of the giver. Giving springs from a heart full of mercy and compassion. God loved us first, and our love is a response of gratitude to his great mercy and kindness towards us. We cannot outgive God in his generosity towards us. This is true generosity and generosity is hospitality. It is because generosity and hospitality go hand-in-hand. One cannot separate from the other.
Hospitality is required of all people and cultures but some excel more. For us, Filipinos, we are known for this practice and I hope that this tradition will live and go on and on. It is also a religious demand on each one of us as Christian people to be hospitable and generous. Because God has been generous and hospitable to us, we invite others into our shared lives. And as providers of hospitality, we must always be sensitive to the needs of others.
When we are hospitable, we are compassionate. When we lack compassion we do not see others where they hurt badly. We are to be gentle and compassionate. Let us be compassionate for those who have hurt us at this time. If we are not mutually forgiving, we lack the basic compassion to invite others in and show them genuine undeserved friendship, for God loved us while we were still sinners.
Do we give freely as Jesus gives without expectation for personal gain or reward?