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Homily for 7/22/12 - P7 - Hospitality

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  • Fr David Moser
    Rom 15:1-7 One of the virtues that we frequently hear about, but rarely think about, is hospitality. How can entertaining and hosting friendly gatherings be
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 22, 2012
      Rom 15:1-7

      One of the virtues that we frequently hear about, but rarely think
      about, is hospitality. How can entertaining and hosting friendly
      gatherings be considered a spiritual quality – hospitality seems to be
      much more a social quality. But indeed, true hospitality is much more
      than just having a great party, or getting friends together for a good
      time. Hospitality, as a Christian virtue, is described by the words we
      heard today in the Epistle. “We then that are strong ought to bear the
      infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let every one of
      us please his neighbour for his good to edification. For even Christ
      pleased not himself;… Wherefore receive ye one another, as Christ also
      received us to the glory of God.” When we consider hospitality in this
      light, it becomes an act of self denial. When someone is invited into
      our home, their needs and comfort becomes more important than our own.
      We don’t expect a guest to cook a meal, or to wash clothes or dishes, or
      to run the vacuum cleaner. When we open our home to a guest, we provide
      for their needs before our own. The widow of Zarepheth, when she gave
      hospitality to the prophet Elijah in the middle of a famine, had only a
      handful of meal and a little oil – she had planned to make a little
      cake, share it with her son and then die as they had no other food. But
      before she fed herself and her son from this final morsel of food, she
      fed her guest, giving him literally all the food she had for herself. (1
      Kings 17:10ff) In many cultures and eras, hospitality even overruled
      personal grudges. Not only friends, but enemies were extended
      hospitality in times of need – and when one was a guest of another, all
      personal antipathy was set aside and no one would dare raise his hand
      against either the host or even another guest, for such behavior would
      violate the hospitality of the house and insult the host.

      If we are Christians, then the name implies that we are people of
      hospitality. We are to open our homes to guests and pilgrims and to
      properly provide for their comfort and care. We should, as the apostle
      said, “receive one another as Christ also received us.” In doing so, we
      do not please ourselves, but we strive to please our neighbor. The
      second great commandment of the law, after loving God is to love one’s
      neighbor as one’s self and when asked who is my neighbor Jesus responded
      with the parable of the good Samaritan, pointing out to us that all men
      are our neighbors. The Apostle John tells us that if we do not love our
      neighbor then we do not love God. (1John 4:20,21). Hospitality for our
      neighbor then is simply a manifestation of our love for God.

      The first one to Whom we offer hospitality then is Jesus Christ. I want
      Jesus to enter into the house of my soul – this is in fact the very plea
      that I express in the prayers as I prepare to receive the Holy
      Mysteries. But my soul is in ruin, the roof is fallen, there is dirt and
      grime and disarray everywhere. How can I receive the King of all into my
      house when it is so ill prepared. I am concerned with my own affairs,
      with my own comfort, with my own pleasure. I am self centered and self
      absorbed. How can I open the door of my soul to Christ. He has come to
      me and knocks on the door and is ready to enter in, but leave Him
      standing on the threshold because I am not ready to deny myself, I am
      not ready to change my selfish ways, I am not ready to give up even my
      surplus, let alone the last morsel I have for Him. I am, in fact, still
      consumed by my own sin. And yet He continues to knock and seek entrance
      to the house of my soul.

      How then can I receive Him? What must I do to open the doors of the
      house of my soul that I might let Him enter. Certainly, I must “clean
      house” and begin to set aright all that is in disarray. Must I then
      become perfect – no this is not possible for any man and certainly not
      for me. It is enough that I am willing to begin to deny myself and to no
      longer please myself, but to please Christ. He asks only those things of
      us that we are able to provide – and as we get more apt at denying
      ourselves, so He then increases little by little what He asks of us,
      until we are able to completely set aside our love of self and instead
      love God and our neighbor.

      As we open the house of the soul to Christ, He shows us little by little
      where our sin still holds us captive and invites us, through repentance,
      to turn that sin over to Him that He might free us from its hold. When
      we repent of our sins, He forgives our sins and His forgiveness begets
      love for Him in us. The more we repent, the more we are forgiven, and
      the more we are forgiven, the more we love Him.

      There is a tale of a man who desired to have the Lord come bodily to him
      that he might receive Him in his home. Seeing his fervent desire, the
      Lord said to the man that tomorrow He would come. All the next day the
      man waited, but only his neighbors came to visit – this one needing some
      help, that one in sorrow, another with some problem. This went on all
      day, many visitors, but the Lord did not come. As the man poured out his
      sorrow in prayer that the Lord did not come, he recalled all those that
      did come to his house that day and in each person, by the grace of God,
      he saw not the face of his neighbor, but the face of Christ. And here he
      learned that indeed the Lord did come to him, and just as he received
      his neighbor so he had received Christ.

      After forgiveness and the love of God which is born of it, this then
      shows us that as we receive others, so we receive Christ. As we invite
      them into our homes and into our lives, so also we invite Christ into
      the house of our soul. As we please them instead ourselves, so also we
      have made that first step on the path to follow Christ – to deny myself.
      By receiving others, we receive also Christ as He has received us to the
      glory of God.

      Archpriest David Moser
      St Seraphim of Sarov Orthodox Church (ROCOR)
      Homilies: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/propoved/
      Website: http://stseraphimboise.org
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