Archbishop Peter A Comensoli
Homily: 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)
Every person has a family history. In some way or another, we each will find our origins located in a family situation. And in that history, whether our own present story or somewhere in the past, our family will have been marked by loss. For most of us, the loss comes as we live out our years, but for some of us it comes early and unlooked for.
I think here of those whose family story has involved being fostered out or adopted. And I think also of those families where having children of their own has only been able to come via the welcoming of someone else’s child. Whether these stories have been happy or sad in outcome, they all nonetheless involve loss.
The woman from Shumen, who cared for the Prophet Elisha, knew one side of this story, having been unable to conceive a child. Her life – and the life of her husband – was indeed marked by that deep pool of loss. Yet, we learn from the story in our first reading, that she had nonetheless found her life by welcoming and caring for the travelling holy man. What was lost could, nonetheless, in God’s grace and by God’s prompting, become a discovery. By her act of hospitality, the Shumenite woman had found a pool of life within.
St Paul speaks, in our second reading today, of the plunge into death each who is baptised has made. It is a plunge, nonetheless, into a pool of life, life in Christ. In the mystery of baptism, someone else’s pool of loss – Jesus’ – becomes a hospitable location for us to discover our lives. He dies, we rise. An exchange of pools that transforms us. His hospitality on the cross becomes our family home along the way to our heavenly home.
When Jesus instructed his apostles that to lose their life in his is to find their lives more deeply, we would do well to remember where loss and life have played out in our lives. The biblical way of doing this is in hospitality for the lives of others. Hospitality offered to a wandering holy person; hospitality given in a cup of water to the thirsty neighbour; hospitality received from plunging into the life of Jesus. Hospitality learnt from loss, that brings life.
There is no such thing as non-apostolic Christianity. By becoming Christians, we take on a share in Christ’s own life on the cross for the sake of offering the hospitality of the gospel. The challenge is great and the loss felt, but the gain is assured and the discovery life-giving.
Each of us has a story of loss in our family, whether it is our own or whether it came earlier. But all of us have been adopted by God into his life. We are his own sons and daughters; Jesus is our brother. We have known the hospitality that leads to life; might we not be hospitable in turn to those seeking a pool of life?