Date: June 28, 2020 ()

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One of the breakthroughs of the Philippine church is the flourishing of the Basic Ecclesial Communities (BEC). The whole parish is subdivided into groups composed of 10 to 12 families for each group. Basically, the homes that are proximate to each other, otherwise called neighbors, form a family grouping which is now called BEC. Each BEC functions as a little church allowing each member to minister each other according to their respective charism. The three main works or activities in the BEC follow the principle of the threefold mission of Christ - kingly, priestly, and prophetic, that is, works of Charity, prayer meetings, bible study, and faith-sharing. These three main activities sustain their faith life for the whole week and they will culminate in the celebration of the Mass on Sunday. The beauty of it is that: the missionary work of the church is already practiced in the neighborhood as they try to minister to each other. In the Philippines, it’s called the “new way of being church” though by principle it is actually a sort of a revival of the life of the early Christian communities who once gathered in their houses for worship (domus ecclesia).

Meanwhile, Jesus, in today’s gospel wants us to see an important truth that has been taken for granted, if not forgotten, in our modern times. Jesus does not intend to forget our own families, but He wants to revive the truth that, originally, before we become individual families, we first belong to a family where God is the father and we are His children; each one is a brother or a sister to the other; this one big family is composed of families who are not necessarily related by blood, race, and color, but they reach out to one another in the spirit of being children of God.

I illustrated to you earlier a little background about this structure called BEC because I would be sharing with you some things regarding my visits to these small communities. In the early years of my ministry, I enjoyed going to those little communities on an every-other-day basis during the weekdays. (Now you understand why I try not to miss an invitation to your homes.) So far, all my visits were an awesome experience of people’s hospitality and eagerness to host and welcome the Eucharist. Here I realized that truly the hearts of the people are fertile grounds in which the seeds of faith can grow. Those happy visits I had to the families while bringing them the Sacred Mass to their homes are wonderful assurances as if God is telling me, “just continue being my priest, and everything will be taken care of.” Actually, wherever I go, this is the most constant in the equation. God’s unchanging and lavish love for His servants is concretely experienced in the communities where He sent them. In concrete, it just feels like being in Irwin. Like Mary, I keep and treasure all your goodness in my heart. It’s one of those things I consider the joy of priesthood - that is, to experience the parishioners’ love for their priests, not for anything else, but mainly because they love the Lord.

A story is told about a farmer, who went to a big city to see the sights, asked the hotel's clerk about the time of meals. "Breakfast is served from 7 to 11, dinner from 12 to 3, and supper from 6 to 8," explained the clerk. "Look here," inquired the farmer in surprise, "when am I going to get time to see the city?" This is what we call: overdose hospitality, I can only take it if tomorrow is Friday, my day-off.

It is good to remember some stories in the scriptures where God stores something for those whose hearts are warm and hospitable. The first reading recalls the prophet Elisha’s wonderful experience of the generosity of a family who invited him to join them in their meals and eventually arranged a little room on the roof and furnished it for him with a bed, table, chair, and lamp. (You don’t need to do it for me, I have the whole IC building to keep me warm and safe… but I thank you still, the IC parishioners, your forefathers built it!)…and what did we eventually find out in the first reading story? That generous family in return received the prophet’s favor. Since the woman has no son and her husband is getting on in years, the prophet Elisha promised, “this time next year you will be fondling a baby son.”

Jesus in today’s gospel affirms such an act of kindness. He instructs: “Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me. Whoever receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward…” I did not say it to you in view of my own interest, but solely for your own good. What the priests basically bring you, in those encounters, is the word of God that nourishes and nurtures you and your family’s spiritual well-being. The hospitality that I am talking about could be your hearts that provide a place or a home for the gospel to grow.

It’s quite a relevant reminder nowadays because some cultures today are already becoming resistant to the messengers of God and to His message. The church is constantly under attack not only because of its weakness and the downfall of a few of its messengers; but also, mainly because she is unwavering in her proclamation of the gospel values that go in conflict with the values of the world.

The second reading is an encouragement from St. Paul who also experienced the pains of not being accepted on the account of Christ: “Brothers and sisters, are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?“ This is one thing we take into account as we do our mission: Not all the time the grounds are good. Some grounds are parched and arid. We may do a lot of (dying), that is, tilling and hard-work to eventually turn the seedbed fertile. But the Lord gave us a promise of a new life for us who endure the dying process.

Hence, what can we do to be able to live this gospel message? Hospitality can mean “gentle correction” whenever we see lapses to our brothers and sisters in faith. We need kindness, gentleness, and goodness of the heart to nurture this mystical body of Christ, where each one is a significant part. In this time of the pandemic, many of our brothers and sisters are still scared to go out or visit our churches due to health and safety concerns. In his Flocknote, Fr. John mentioned his gratitude to the many parishioners who have stepped up to help sanitize all high touch areas of the church to provide a safe mode experience for all parishioners. The ushers and greeters have been diligent in helping everyone find a seat, ensuring that social distancing policy at the pews and during communion will be observed. In whatever way we can help, let us continue these acts of hospitality that everyone may feel welcome and safe in the house of the Lord.