I am sure that you have heard before that hospitality was one of the most well-kept virtues of the Middle Eastern culture. It was a matter of survival. The geography of the area made it necessary. If hospitality was withheld, the person in need of it might very well die.
There was another reason. This culture is also based upon reciprocity. If someone asks for something, as is the case in today’s Gospel passage, one might be caught in a situation that demanded someone come to his/her aid. If you were guilty of withholding hospitality when asked, you might very well find yourself being denied it in the future.
This is what is going on in today’s Gospel passage. One man finds himself unable to provide for a guest. He asks a neighbor for help. That neighbor must respond as he might find himself in a similar situation in the future.
Jesus uses this story to illustrate God’s response to our need. If human beings such as the ones in today’s parable can act graciously to a person in need, how much more will God come to the aid of a person who asks for assistance.
However, the key to the statement is the matter of “need.” This is not a matter of “want.” God does not respond to our wants. God responds to our need when we approach for God’s assistance. All too often our requests are about what we want rather than about what we need. God knows the difference even though we may not.
At the same time, we must also remember that gratitude for any gift, such as the gift of hospitality and generosity which are the subject of the parable, must also be a part of our prayer. The Eucharist is all about thanksgiving. So while we place our needs before God in the context of any celebration of the Mass, it is so important to remember all of the gifts we have already received, especially the gift of faith.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator