I recall a few years ago it was a fad to ask, “If you could invite anybody to dinner, who would you invite for a chat”, selecting from all people across the globe. To make a choice you would do so on the strength of your expectation.
With a little stretching of the imagination we could say Jesus was laying the foundation for such a gathering. Let’s imagine he is inviting us to a dinner table of his friends.
The gospel tells us there is a prophet, a righteous person, a most desperately deprived person and of course himself. He instructs……
‘Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward.
Whoever welcomes a righteous person will receive the reward of a righteous person.’
Then he concludes with the note that in your meeting with the simplest most needy person, if you offer just a cup of water you will receive the pleasure of its reward.
Once again we are to try to capture the message he is trying to portray for us. We have been invited by Jesus to engage with each of the people. We will engage in conversation and presumably receive back something uniquely they have to offer. The different verses speak of this receiving back as a reward, each reward different according to the person.
- A prophet, the prophets reward.
- The righteous person, a righteous person’s reward.
- Finally, the person of great need, yes even what they have to offer.
As we walk away and thinking about the evening and the interest we found in each person we will be feeling enriched by having come to know new people and something important about their life. But something else will come to mind.What interesting people Jesus had gathered together.
We will feel we have been equally engaged with Jesus as the host of the dinner party. In his small gathering we will have found we came to know Jesus even through his friends. What a reward is that.
Maybe as a day or so passes and we forget the detail of the conversation but just the pleasure of recalling the pleasure of being part of the group, Maybe even a little special, we will feel that the gathering was almost a godly experience for they were Jesus people. For Jesus did say in today’s passage…
'Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.'
Of course, life is not literally a dinner party. Real life is random.
Yes, there are regular meetings with people, but there are also numerous other possibilities of people we randomly bump into. From the homeless beggar to the ‘power' dressed executive. From the politician to the humble shop assistant...
- What do we expect in our meetings with people?
- Are we too easily influenced by appearances?
We can respond to each according to the way we perceive them, and we will receive whatever they have to offer.
The message from the gospel reading seeks to enlighten us to be aware that every encounter with another is a sacred opportunity. Every encounter has the potential to bring us to Jesus table whereby we meet him through his guests of life.
Another Scripture puts it another way…
Be on your guard when meeting strangers because you may be unexpectedly meeting angels.
There is one more point that our passage prompts of us. The experience is in our hands. Are you an optimist or a pessimist? What is your attitude to life?
What do you expect?
Do you expect each encounter with another person to bring a blessing, for whoever the person you meet is, they have something to offer, for they are a Child of God? You could say life is like a dinner party beckoning us to engage expectantly with others, for within our encounter with them we are coming into the company of Jesus.
Creation is the most extraordinary gift, if only expectation is open to what it has to offer us.