For the readings of today's mass, go to
13th Sunday in Ordinary Time A 2 Kings 4: 8-11
Welcome back – it’s been well over 3 and a half months now since we were able to gather as a parish community to celebrate the Sunday mass. I hope for all of you attending or watching online today have a tremendous feeling of joy that we can worship together once again, albeit in somewhat different circumstances.
During the time that the parish was closed, I was so grateful for the outpouring of support the parish staff and I received from you. Your support of our outreach efforts to you, as well as your continued financial support of the parish was and is deeply appreciated. For our efforts using social media, phone calls, the updates and daily reflections on the parish website, the livestreaming of homilies, prayer gatherings and Sunday masses, and our home visits, we received many message of gratitude and thanks in your emails and messages and phone calls. In fact, you said thank you constantly. And in turn we say, “You’re welcome - it was our duty and privilege to do so.”
You're welcome. I always liked that phrase. But when think about it, there is something unusual about it, particularly when it is said in response to hearing, “Thank you”. But in fact, in that polite response you are actually saying, “You are welcome.” And that is a beautiful phrase to say to someone.
How many times did I hear the phrase “You are welcome” when I, and 5 other parishioners from Nativity visited Fr. Peter’s parish just outside of Lagos, Nigeria, back in February. All 6 of us received the most magnificent of hospitality from our hosts. Anywhere we went, those hosting us would say with a big smile, “You are welcome”. And the kindness and caring that we received was not because of anything we had done, but the fact that we were there – and oh, how we were welcomed and cared for with open hearts.
What we constantly heard and experienced in Nigeria reminds me of the welcome and hospitality the prophet Elisha received from the woman of Shunem in today’s 1st reading. But there was one big difference – we six Canadians were known by all our hosts to be friends and guests of Fr. Peter. But the woman of this reading had no idea who Elisha was. But still she was so hospitable and welcoming to him. This was a good woman. She had a kind and generous heart. That is why she did so. But was there something else to motivate her to do so? Yes.
You see, the welcoming and providing hospitality to all who came one’s way, even if that person was a stranger, was a practice that essential in the lives of the Israel. For just as God cared for the Israelites during their time of enslavement in Egypt, so God in turn commanded the Israelites, as we read in Deuteronomy 10: 18-19, to welcome all, even strangers, and provide hospitality to them. In so doing, they might encounter the God of their faith, and be blessed by God.
Which brings us to today’s first reading. We hear how the prophet Elisha was passing through the town of Shunem, where a wealthy woman who was childless lived. More than once she gives hospitality to Elisha, and as she gets to know him, she becomes convinced he is a holy man of God. So she has built a guest chamber for Elisha. For her goodness, the holy man of God tells her that soon she will have a son. But this happens not because of Elisha’s kindness – but from God’s kindness.
The story of the woman of Shunem reminds us to be mindful and ready to welcome the varied ways and the many people through whom the presence of God is made known to us. And you know what? When we welcome them, in our own way, we also welcome God. And in turn, God blesses us.
Has it ever occurred to you that your being here at this mass, or else, watching it on the livestream today, is a wonderful way to welcome God into your lives? For here we are, making the effort to be present to our God, and in turn, God says to each one of us: You are most welcome, my child. And then think of the ways that we are blessed in that welcome from God – for starters, gathering together in worship with our brothers and sisters, while yes, in a different circumstances and ways than we are used to. But God is still here. And as well, here God nourishes with His word in our readings – and here God will later nourish us with the gift of the Body of Christ. There are so many blessings we receive in this mass - what a beautiful welcome from our God.
Consider all those blessings we receive here. And then we say, “Yes Lord, it is good for us to be here.”