Thoughts from Deacon Martin
19th November 2018
As a recently-ordained permanent deacon, I am still experiencing a series of “firsts” in my ministry. This week, I visited a parishioner, to pray for God’s blessing on her new home. It was a privilege to be invited into her home, to sprinkle holy water on the house and on the family, and to share a meal with them afterwards.
For many of us, who have lived in the same place for many years, we may forget what a blessing our home is. But when we’ve been away (even if only after a day’s work), it’s good to arrive home and rest. It is a place of shelter from the weather, a source of security, and, for some of us, the place where those who are dearest to us live.
Sometimes we only appreciate these blessings when we no longer experience them. So in this month of November, we continue to pray for those who once lived with us, but who have died, and have been called to be “away from the body, and at home with the Lord” (2 Cor 5:8). And, as we approach winter, let us keep in our hearts and our prayers, the homeless, who, like Jesus, have “no place to lay their head” (Lk 9:58) – and to take all opportunities to offer them comfort and help.
My home-blessing visit made me think of various places in scripture where God, or his messenger, visited someone’s home. Jesus was particularly keen on visiting others, often sharing a meal – and always bringing the blessing of His own divine presence.
Soon, we will be in the season of Advent, preparing for Christmas, when Jesus was born in Bethlehem, whose name means “house of bread”. Bread represents the commonplace, our day-to-day nourishing and sustenance. By making His dwelling among us, Jesus remains with us in all our day-to-day activities. Can we seek and find Him there, for He is always standing at the door of our hearts and knocking (Rev 3:20)? And if we let Him in, He will reward our welcome, by making the commonplace extraordinary, as He does with bread in every Mass we celebrate.
And then, we can hope that in our turn, we, who have “no lasting city” in this world (Heb 13:14-16), may, through His mercy, be welcomed into His Father’s house – where rooms have already been prepared for us. (Jn 14:2-3).
Some places in Scripture where God, Jesus, or His messenger, visits someone’s home
This is a selection only: there are many more references than these!
The Lord visits Abraham, in the form of three men, to whom Abraham offers hospitality.
Jesus visits the home of Simon and Andrew, and heals Simon’s mother-in-law.
Jesus is welcomed into Martha and Mary’s home – but Martha is distracted.
Jesus asks Zacchaeus to invite him to stay – and others grumble because Jesus is visiting a sinner.
2 disciples invite Jesus to stay with them and share a meal at Emmaus.
Jesus visits Simon the Pharisee, but receives a warmer welcome from a woman of bad reputation.
Jesus visits a Pharisee and tells him to invite the poor, who cannot repay him.
Mary goes to visit Elizabeth, and stays with her for three months.
The seventy-two are sent out, and told to accept the hospitality offered them.
Peter is invited to visit Cornelius, and the Holy Spirit descends on all who are there, including Gentiles.
The jailer of Paul and Silas invites them to his home, and then is baptised.
And bear in mind that Jesus’s visits to the homes of the “unworthy” got him into trouble with the respectable religious people of his time: in Mt 11:19, Jesus is criticised for being a “glutton and a drunkard” because he is a friend of tax-collectors and sinners – and presumably because he not only visited them, but (scandalously) ate and drank with them. Is there a lesson for us, who prefer to be associated with the “right” people?
Deacon Martin McElroy is a permanent deacon, serving in Winchester, in the parish of St Peter and the Winchester Martyrs. He was ordained to the diaconate by Bishop Philip on 1st July 2018. You can read Martin’s own testimony about his vocation here.