Hospitality and the Precepts of the Church

In the fable of the pig and the cow, the pig laments to the cow about how unpopular he is. “People are always talking about your gentleness and your kind eyes,” said the pig. “Sure, you give milk and cream, but I give more. I give bacon, ham, bristles. They even pickle my feet! Still, nobody likes me. Why?” The cow thinks for a minute and then replies, “Well, maybe it’s because I give while I’m still living and I give milk which is meant for my child.” 

When I was growing up, the Precepts of the Church were recited every Sunday, at Mass.  I think it is safe to say that many Catholics do not know or remember these precepts. So, as a reminder to us all- The Five Precepts of the Church (CC 2041-2043):

1)    You shall attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of obligation and rest from servile labor (on Sunday).

2)    You shall confess your sins at least once a year

3)    You shall receive the sacrament of the Eucharist at least during the Easter season

4)    You shall observe the days of fasting and abstinence established by the Church

5)    You shall help to provide for the needs of the Church

These precepts of the Church are not Divine Law or revealed in the Bible. Rather, they are the basic responsibilities of all Catholics.  Notice that the last precept relates to the first reading and the Gospel this Sunday, "Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me… And whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink because the little one is a disciple— amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward."

In ancient times, hospitality was considered a sacred duty. Hospitality was valued as a work of mercy as well as a means of witnessing to the faith. The visitor who traveled through and requested assistance was to be regarded as a living reminder of Israel’s former struggle as enslaved strangers in Egypt. The stranger in need was also to remind Israel of its present status as a wandering pilgrim on earth.

Today’s Gospel reminds us that, in our building of the Kingdom of God, the hospitality and generosity expected of us should be given here and now.

Kathryn Richards