Tag Archives: hospitality

Taking the initiative in hospitality

When he saw them,
he ran from the entrance of the tent
to greet them.
Genesis 18:2

One of the most famous icons in the world is Andrei Rublev’s The Trinity, which depicts the three strangers who were welcomed by Abraham. I have seen other depictions of this scene that include Abraham and Sarah.

AbrahamVisitors

But reading today’s first lectionary reading, Genesis 18: 1-15, I noticed that Abraham was seated in his tent and he noticed the three men standing nearby. They had not come to the entrance to his tent, seeking help. They were just there.

And Abraham ran. This old man runs – something not very seeming for a revered old man. He runs to greet them and invites them to wash their feet, eat some food, rest, and then go on their way.

How often do I think that hospitality is being attentive to those who knock on my door. But that’s a minimalistic understanding of the hospitality of God.

Abraham teaches us that hospitality is looking out from his tent for the stranger, for the wayfarer. It means taking the initiative to welcome the other. We need not wait until someone comes asking help or a cup of water. We are called to follow the example of Abraham and go out and bring in the stranger.

Isn’t this what Pope Francis has been telling us. We need to go out from where we are, from the walls of our churches and our homes?

Isn’t this what the current refugee and migrant crises call us to do – not building walls, but strangers – refugees and migrants – into our midst?

Isn’t this what I am called to do as a deacon – to go out, running like the old Abraham, to serve those who stand outside in the heat of the day?

Isn’t that what God does for us – running out of heaven, coming down to earth, to show us love and rescue us from sin and separation?

Do not neglect hospitality,
for through it some have entertained angels unaware.
Hebrews 13:2

 


 

The photo is of a miniature that I purchased in Jerusalem, in the Church of the Dormition, many years ago – the work of a local artist.

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.