By Tom Micinski
In the first reading, Jeremiah describes a future trip home from exile for the Israelites. He specifically includes a list of the people that will be included on this journey, “I will gather them from the ends of the world, with the blind and the lame in their midst, the mothers and those with child; they shall return as an immense throng.” The types of people listed are exactly the people you would NOT expect to make a long journey. They would be slow and they would need extra assistance and care along the way, causing the whole group to slow down. Jeremiah is reminding us about radical hospitality. We must include with compassionate care those who are most vulnerable and on the margins of society.
The opening scene in today’s Gospel has Jesus walking out of Jericho down a road with his disciples and
a ‘sizable’ crowd. In my mind, I pictured a bustling, noisy crowd of people around Jesus as he walks out of Jericho. Despite the commotion going on around Him, Jesus hears the shouts of a blind man on the side of the road and stops to ask him what he wants. Because of the circumstances, I think it would have been very easy to walk by the man without stopping. However, Jesus again demonstrates radical hospitality by stopping in the midst of His busyness to be present for another person. After being cured of his blindness, the man joins the community and follows Jesus.
Similarly, there have been stories in the news of people journeying. The last few days, I have seen news footage showing crowds of migrants travelling from Honduras through Mexico to the U.S. border. Don’t worry, I’m not going to make a political statement on immigration reform or border security. However, one thing I noticed from the news reports was the people in the caravan; women, small children, the elderly, and the disabled. I did not expect to see these types of people travelling in a caravan for over 1500 miles. I also noticed the hospitality of the local Mexican people towards these migrants walking through their towns.
The center of Huixtla, a town of about 30,000 people, was teeming with migrants, who sought shelter from the sun under tarps and on shaded sidewalks. Church groups served food and drink, while locals sold them everything from single cigarettes to coconut treats smothered in hot sauce. (USA Today)
Mexican workers handed food and bottled water to the migrants on the bridge. Through the bars, a doctor gave medical attention to a woman who feared her young son was running a fever. (Associated Press)
I definitely saw Sunday’s Scripture readings reflected in the current news stories covering the caravan. One aspect they both had in common were the communal acts of hospitality displayed in each. However, I was surprised at how these stories made me think about our Sunday liturgical celebration, the Mass.
Everyone agrees that the Mass is communal because we all gather together in church. However, sometimes the language that is used when referring to the Mass does not always give a communal feel. I know I have talked about Mass as where I go to receive Communion, I go to pray, or I go to be inspired by the priest’s homily. This type of language portrays individualistic activities, which are all about ME and not communal at all.
The Scripture readings and current news stories were strong reminders for me that the Mass is a communal celebration of a meal. Mass is where we “fully and actively participate” to be in Communion together as the body of Christ. Keeping this perspective in mind will definitely change how attentive I am to the readings, how loudly I praise God through the hymns, and how I engage and interact with the people around me during Mass.