Not so long ago I read a story about a little boy whose mother was sick lying on the floor in the house. The boy runs outside for help, but no one would stop. He saw a car coming down the street, tried to flag him down but the car kept going. As the driver continued to roll down the street, he heard a loud crash. It was brick the little boy had throw through the back window of the car. The driver jumps out and goes after the boy telling him he is going to jail. The boy says, I’m sorry mister, I didn’t know what else to do. Our phone was cut off and I’ve been trying for ten minutes to get someone to stop. My mother is sick lying on the floor; she needs a doctor please help her and then you can send me to jail. The driver says I’m a doctor, take me to her.
The doctor administers CPR and calls for an ambulance. The boy asks will she live? The doctor says yes she will. The boy responds then it’s worth going to jail. The doctor says you are not going not going to jail. “It was my fault you had to throw a brick to get my attention.”
What Jesus is telling us to do in Sunday’s gospel from Matthew is similar to the famous Golden Rule – “Do unto others.” A cup of cold water is a gift that everyone can give because it is the smallest of gifts. Even this, the smallest of gifts, is precious to the person receiving it, because it sometimes is the gift of life.
We are to do this for everyone, whether family member, friend or stranger. It can mean providing material support such as food, clothing or shelter. Those who do God’s work can be assured that those who help them will be rewarded. Doing God’s work includes healing. They often leave personal comforts such as family time to care for the needs of others, just like in recent times those in Health Care have done. They show the love Jesus showed us when he lived among us. When we serve others, we serve Jesus, just like Jesus and his disciples served others.
We are to show compassion for others by caring for the sick, comforting those who mourn, etc. This is contrary to our “me-first,” selfish culture that we see exhibited today. It will loosen our hold on our possessions, lives, and so on. These small beginnings are the seed of a different kind of happiness, the happiness of a Christian life.
To offer hospitality, care and compassion, we simply have to bring who we are, what we have, where we are. It requires attention to the person receiving the hospitality. We have to receive the person first before they can receive the benefit of the gift we offer.
To Jesus, hospitality meant acceptance, even those who, in his society and in this day, were deemed to be unacceptable. This is why he put his arms around lepers, ate with tax collectors, forgave sinners, broke Sabbath laws. Hospitality was not only important to Jesus, it was at the very heart of being God, and it didn’t make any difference to him where such hospitality took place, or to whom, or on what day.
When it comes to hospitality, we take turns being the host and being the guest. Sometimes we are the ones who simply need the hug or cup of water and kindness comes. Other times, we are the ones providing the hug or cup of water.
We have the power to bring others into a relationship with God. The power to show others God’s love by showing them our love, the power to bring face to face with God by bringing them face to face with us.