Today’s readings, especially, the first and the gospel, teach us that God rewards the hospitality accorded to His messengers or followers. In the gospel text from Matthew 10:41-42, Jesus declares: “Whoever welcomes God’s messenger because he is God’s messenger, will share in his reward … Whoever gives even a drink of cold water to one of the least of these my followers because he is my follower, will certainly receive a reward.”
In Matthew 25: 34-36, Jesus confirms this promise saying that on the day of the Final Judgement he will say to those who will have assisted him by helping the needy: “Come and possess the kingdom which has been prepared for you …. I was hungry and you fed me, thirsty and you gave a drink; I was a stranger and you received me in your homes, naked and you clothed me; I was sick and you took care of me, in prison and you visited me. … Whenever you did this for one of the least important of these followers of mine, you did it for me.”
In the first reading, from 2 Kings 4:8-16, we have heard that God rewarded a childless couple with a son, because of their hospitality towards prophet Elisha. On the way to his mission, Elisha used to pass by the house of this couple. The couple decided to provide him with a room having a bed, table, chair and a lamp. And they used to give him food. When the boy died, Elisha raised him from the dead.
Likewise, in 1Kgs 17:8-24, we read about the miraculous multiplication of the food of the widow of Zarephath because she had given some food to prophet Elijah. Additionally, prophet Elijah raised her son from the dead. Generosity and rewards for generosity go together.
Today’s gospel text tells us indirectly why Christ’s messengers or followers should be accorded generosity or hospitality. First all they would be coming in his name. Secondly, Jesus knew that his followers would have to sacrifice a lot, including their families, freedom, peace, and security. Actually, by the time Matthew wrote his gospel, “the fact of having to break with one’s family was a very painful and concrete necessity. The leaders of the Jews had decided that those who converted to Christ were traitors and must be expelled from their families and no longer be members of the people of Israel. Whoever chose to convert knew that this choice would have very drastic financial, social and even emotional consequences.” (Fernando Armellini, Celebrating the Word, Year A, p. 205).
Those who loved their non-Christian families more than they loved Jesus could not become his followers. Those who loved Jesus more than their non-Christian families had to part with their families, thereby foregoing family support.
This is the very reason why one of my foster sons became my foster son. When he decided to become a Catholic priest, his pagan father tried to burn him to death. He has a huge scar on his chest caused by the burning. The boy run to me. I welcomed him into my family, paid his high school and seminary tuition until he became a priest.
I too, I am an example. When I was no longer able to work to raise my tuition, other people assisted me until I became a priest. Even when God sent me here as his messenger, you welcomed me, accommodated me in a good house; you feed me very well, care for my health, pray for me and you give me a lot of emotional support. I do not regret having left my family, house, businesses and my country Uganda. Certainly, you will not miss your reward, because Jesus is the one who makes that promise in today’s gospel text. If he has not yet done so, he is going to reward you with abundant blessings, beginning with his body and bloody and ending with eternal happiness.