Welcome the stranger

Remember always to welcome strangers,
for through it some have
entertained angels unaware.
Hebrews 13: 2

In many Catholic churches today the homily will be on the Gospel story of Mary and Martha. It’s a shame that many will probably not reflect on today’s first reading from Genesis (8: 1-10), the beautiful story of Abraham, Sarah, and the three visitors.

The most famous image is Andrei Rublev’s icon The Trinity, but forty years ago I saw an icon in Athens with Abraham and Sarah in the background as the three visitors ate. About ten years ago I found a miniature in Jerusalem that I’ve placed at the entrance of my home here in Honduras.

abraham3visitors

But reading the text this morning something struck me that I had never noticed before.

Abraham was sitting at the entrance to his tent at the hottest time of day. He looked up and saw them standing there and then:

 When he saw them, he ran from the entrance of the tent to greet them.

He did not wait for them to approach. He took the initiative to welcome them, offer them water to bathe their feet and food to eat.

Welcoming the stranger is not merely waiting for someone to come and ask for help. As Abraham took the initiative so should we.

Like the Good Samaritan of last Sunday’s Gospel, we are called to see, feel compassion, and draw near – making ourselves neighbor to those who are in need or are passing by.

Welcoming the stranger is not merely waiting for them to come; it’s a positive act of welcome.

Come. Sit here with me. Let me give you something to eat.

And so, we may welcome angels, the messengers of God in disguise.

Look up. See them standing there. Welcome them in.

It won’t always be easy. I’m reading Dorothy Day’s diaries, The Duty of Delight, which reveal the difficulties she experienced and the challenges she faced.  But, she persevered, with prayer and patience, and so entertained these messengers of God. Appropriately, a film about her is entitled Entertaining Angels, even though it was not always entertaining.

 

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