Friday, February 4, 2011

Friday of the Fourth Week in Ordinary Time

(Hebrews 13:1-8; Mark 6:14-29)

The exceptionally beautiful exhortation from the Letter to the Hebrews today typically comes at the end of a New Testament epistle. After expressing the basis of his faith in Jesus, the author describes several actions consonant with such belief. The exhortation is thus called paraclesis from the Greek language meaning a strengthening of mind as well as heart to what has been taught.

The first part of the paraclesis in Hebrews considers practices to be followed. Christians are to offer hospitality freely because one never knows who the guest is. The last verse of the passage today recalls that Jesus is always the same, always ready to be our guest. A table prayer attributed to Benedictine monks joins the two ideas in verse:

O thou…
Who hast multiplied loaves and fishes
And converted water into wine;
Do thou come to our table
As guest and giver to dine.

It cannot be wrong to have private dinner parties. Couples, families, and associates need occasions to share exclusively over a meal. But such instances should not blind us to the evangelical call to share our sustenance with others. Especially the poor, as the last judgment parable in St. Matthew’s Gospel indicates, have a claim on our ample resources. In breaking bread with them, Jesus tells us, we entertain him at table.