I have a one guilty pleasure: watching poker on television. It’s only watching poker since I’ve rarely played in person. Losing money is against my religion. But I’m interested in the strategy of the game, the different possibilities of card combinations, and the psychology of one player trying to outplay the other. The highest drama is when someone goes “All In”, pushing all their chips to the middle of the table. Sometimes it’s aggression, trying to force an adversary out of the pot, sometimes it’s desperation, when the chips are getting smaller and the best you can do is take a chance. Once that’s done, there’s nothing anyone can do as the rest of the cards are laid out one after another, then someone stays or someone goes.
Jesus calls us to go all in. The Gospel reading today sees Jesus asking his disciples to turn the traditions of the day upside down. Family was the most important loyalty in those days, and it had equal authority to the state. Bringing the family shame was punishable by death. Parents of every age know who precious their children are, and will sacrifice anything for them. Crosses were to be avoided, since they meant a degrading, shameful death the ancient Jews considered a curse. Yet Jesus says to love Him first above all.
Why would we do this? Because of the promise of God throughout the ages. In the First Reading, the birth of a son was seen as a blessing from God, it meant the parents would have someone to take care of them, provide for them. The Second Reading shares Paul’s promise, reminding that those who are baptized in Christ are also baptized in his Death, and will also take part in His Resurrection, which is new life better than can be hoped for. Giving all to Christ is losing all to gain all. The reward is Hope, which is the greatest reward of all.
How we do this through hospitality. The woman in the First Reading gives her hospitality to a prophet, and is rewarded with hope for the future. In the second part of the Gospel reading, Jesus promises us that our hospitality will be rewarded, even if it’s only a cup of cold water to someone in need. A Prophet’s Reward isn’t necessarily an easy thing, and could lead to rejection just as prophets are rejected, but through Hope we have a greater reward, both now and in the age to come. How we give hospitality is a key part of our commitment to Christ: hospitality to our friends and those close to us, hospitality to our neighbors, hospitality to prophets in our midst, hospitality to those we have trouble dealing with, and perhaps most importantly, hospitality to those on the markings, those in need.
Jesus goes all in for us, gives Himself to us completely in His Body and Blood. His commitment to us is what keeps us going, gives us hope and strength. In Christ we are called to become a community that is His presence in the world: a community of hospitality and hope.