The Transforming Hospitality of Jesus

Sunday, October 30, 2022 | By Rev. Michael P. Hanifin

Readings: WIS 11:22-12:2; 2 THES 1:11-2:2; LK 19:1-10

We live in a polarized and divided world today.  It seems that people are at odds with one another, and nations at odds with other nations.  In the climate in which we find ourselves, it is easy to view each other with suspicion or at least a certain guardedness in the modern world. Of course, it’s wise to be prudent in our dealings with people. But our Catholic faith calls us to a different outlook towards our neighbor. It calls us to approach everyone with an open heart — to have a positive intentionality toward others, and not to see them through a lens of suspicion, but through the lens of loving hospitality.

This is the attitude of our heavenly Father when He looks upon creation, as we see in our first reading from the Book of Wisdom: “For you love all things that are and loathe nothing that you have made; for you would not fashion what you hate.” God’s imperishable spirit is in every person because every person is made in the image and likeness of God. “God looked at everything he had made and found it very good” (Genesis 1:31).

Far deeper than good manners or a superficial exchange of pleasantries, the virtue of hospitality is the outward expression of this way of seeing people as God sees them. Our Gospel reading from Luke tells the story of how Jesus modeled this transforming hospitality in His encounter with the tax collector, Zacchaeus. He was not content exchanging a friendly hello with Zacchaeus, so Jesus sought him out of the crowd and insisted on inviting himself to have dinner at his home. This gesture of intimacy and true fellowship was commonplace in that day and culture. Jesus saw the goodness within the man even with being short in stature. Our Lord’s open and welcoming attitude (His hospitality) called forth this goodness, and as a result, Zacchaeus’ life was transformed.

If we are willing to practice Christian hospitality in our daily lives, our families, workplaces, and parish also can be transformed.