The idea of a visitation by God or His messengers is the archetypal basis of many old stories (remember “Beauty and the Beast?) and even in many of our own contemporary “urban legends.” The point is: we have been told that on Judgment Day we will be asked if we fed Jesus, clothed him, and visited him when he was sick or imprisoned. We know all should welcome and receive the living God⎯God Himself, or the God in all of us.
The ideal of hospitality is a great part of our St. Aidan Parish—people talk about how welcoming our parish is for visitors—many times they say so to Fr. Kevin while exiting the church. Fr. Rick Hartmann (a retired priest who assists at the 5:00pm mass once a month) always says at the final blessing and dismissal: “There are no strangers in the house of God.” Every week we gather together to share our stories, to share a meal, and when we are sent we are reminded of this by the Scripture readings today.
In the Gospel Jesus tells us that the better part of hospitality is more than the service we are to give to the body of a person, it is about paying attention to that person him/herself. Yes, one feeds the body, but then one is most hospitable by listening. This is an acknowledgment of the divine within all of us. At mass, even before we eat (receiving Jesus in us), we listen to God’s Word, inviting God into our hearts and minds.
Taking this idea of God’s presence in us a step farther would mean we must extend that acknowledgement—to respect, accept and understand that God’s presence is in all things. Hospitality and service give way to stewardship and care, guardianship and responsibility. We must remember that in all persons God is present; and we may be judged on how we respond. We may not always recognize God in the “every day” of our lives; and that is our challenge as Disciples: to be hospitable to all that God puts in our path. We are called to respond in hospitality⎯with attention and respect, with love and mercy⎯to the presence of God in everyone and in all things. All Are Welcome!
Just a Note: We celebrated the life of Charles “Chuck” Mulka in a funeral mass here in our parish last Monday. You would remember Chuck: he was the guitarist who subbed for me when I was on vacation—and he was also very generous in sharing his gifts and talents with St. Aidan: accompanying the Adult Choir, and singing and playing as a member of our Contemporary Group. It was a sudden and unexpected death (he was only 65); and this has broken the hearts of all of us in the St. Aidan Music Ministry.
I think of the reading from the Book of Wisdom (4:7-15) sometimes used at funeral liturgies: “The just man, though he die early, shall be at rest. For the age that is honorable comes not with the passing of time, nor can it be measured in terms of years. Rather, understanding is the honorable crown for men, and an unsullied life, the attainment of old age. He who pleased God was loved; he who lived among sinners was transported—snatched away… Having become perfect in a short while, he reached the fulness of a long career; for his soul was pleasing to the Lord; therefore He sped him out of the midst of wickedness. But the people saw and did not understand, nor did they take this into account. Because grace and mercy are with His holy ones, and His care is with His elect.”
Chuck went too soon from us in our eyes. We will miss his humor, his generous spirit, his love for all things musical for the glory and praise of God. We will feel the loss of his playing, his musical insight and instinct, his Cat Stevens voice, his guitar quoting of Beatle Songs—and his spontaneous joy in just making music. As Fr. Kevin said last Monday: “We don’t know why you were taken from us—but we know why you were given.” Grace and mercy are with you, Chuck, you are in God’s care—just keep singing and playing.