Category Archives: hospitality

A revolutionary song

Today is the feast of the Visitation. In haste, Mary – pregnant with Jesus – goes to visit her cousin Elizabeth – pregnant with John the Baptist.


It is a feast of hospitality, solidarity, joy.

The passage in Luke’s Gospel (Luke 1: 39-56) ends with the Magnificat, Mary’s canticle in praise of a revolutionary God.

During my retreat last week to prepare for my diaconal ordination, I picked up Sister Elizabeth Johnson’s book of essays Abounding in Kindness: Writing for the People of God, and came across her beautiful and pointed essay on the Magnificat, “Hearts on Fire: A Revolutionary Song.”

I recommend the essay but want to share a few quotations that touched me:

Young, poor, female, member of a subjugated people, [Mary] belongs to a group given a negative valuation by worldly powers. Yet it is to precisely such a woman that the living God has done great things. (p. 301)


Through God’s action the social hierarchy of wealth and poverty, power and subjugation, will be turned upside down. (p. 302)

Mary speaks of a God who has transformed this world and keeps transforming it.

May our souls glorify this Lord who turn things upside down, who in Mary’s song gives us “a profound sense of the odd mercy of the God of Israel who graciously chooses to be in solidarity with those who suffer and are of no account.” (p.301)

The photo is of a painting for the church in El Sitio, Suchitoto, El Salvador.

Elijah and the widow

The jar of flour shall not go empty…
1 Kings 17: 14 

Elijah, fed by ravens (1 Kings 17:6)

Elijah, fed by ravens (1 Kings 17:6)

A famine has come over the land. Elijah has to leave his hideout because the stream has dried up. He goes to a pagan town and asks a widow for food and drink. But she has almost nothing and is awaiting death, together with her son.

How often have I experienced the hospitality of the poor. Though they have little, they are willing to share and will often offer a visitor the best they had.

I remember when I was on sabbatical in El Salvador in 1992, living with a poor family in the countryside. They were making their tortillas out of sorghum – maicillo – but always offered me corn tortillas.

I can’t remember how many times people have offered me a large meal and I’ve had to ask them to give me half of what they were offering.

It also helps that people now know that I don’t eat meat. They don’t kill a chicken for me when I visit so that I can have meat.

The hospitality of the poor is a challenge as was the hospitality of the widow.

She had nothing, but Elijah tells her not to be afraid but to prepare a small cake for him. She does it and the flour and oil last.

As I ponder today’s reading (1 Kings 17: 7-16), I see a connection between hospitality and trust in the Providence of God. Trusting in the providence of God doesn’t mean that everything will be easy and we won’t have problems or suffer. It means that we see that there is a loving God who created the universe – and us. And so, when we trust that a loving God is with us, then we can share.

When we think that we have to do everything for ourselves, as if we are the ones who can assure life and happiness, we hoard our possessions and don’t share.

Trust in God’s providence is hard for me.  I am a planner, a person who wants everything to work out well and to be in its place.

The hospitality of the poor should remind me to follow the example of our loving God who provides for us – though not always as we would hope.