Alice Camille tells us there is a great expression in Polish that says, “When a guest is in the house, God is in the house.”
Everything depends upon the quality of my hospitality!
Do Abraham and Sarah really know who comes to visit them? These three angels: are they really the presence of God, or, for Christians, the presence of the Trinity? Abraham and Sarah perform true justice: giving food, drink and lodging to their sacred guests. Because of the quality of their hospitality, great things happen- they have a son.
When a guest is in the house, God is in the house.
Do Martha and Mary realize how brave they are to even speak with a man in their home? Where is their brother, Lazarus? Isn’t the patriarch of the family welcoming the Lord? Martha not only welcomes Jesus herself in her home, but Mary decides that it is better to sit as a disciple at his feet. Some scholars believe that by the time Luke writes, Martha is the head of a house church. There at her home Christians gather for the Eucharist. She is a leader in the early Christian community and she and her sister learn lots of lessons from Jesus. One lesson Martha learns is that while leadership is about serving and feeding the many, her sister Mary often chooses a good part. That good part is listening to the Word Himself.
To choose that good part of the kingdom of God means that one-day Mary has to be a little rebellious. That one fateful day when Jesus comes to their home in Bethany, Mary decides not to help her sister Martha. She knows that Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem…where…they would persecute him…laugh at him…scorn him…and…? Would eating anything at this juncture matter? Is running around serving more important than listening to the Lord’s fears and hopes and dreams for the kingdom? So when Martha expresses her irritation at her sister’s indolence, Jesus shocks his followers. People expect Jesus to tell Mary, “Ok, your place is in the kitchen with your sister.” Instead, he says, “Martha, I know that you are busy about leading this Christian community and about serving the many, but right now listening to the Word is the better part.” Serving the Lord in my home depends upon the quality of my hospitality.
People know us Benedictines by our hospitality. St. Benedict instructs us to demonstrate great care for the guest for this person is the person of Christ. But what is the quality of my hospitality? If I struggle with this virtue know that the synonyms for hospitality may betray a lack of it in my life. Do I welcome well? How warm and friendly am I towards the other person? The late Fr. Henri Nouwen claimed that true hospitality begins when we see the other not as an enemy but as a friend. Finally, we may want to ask ourselves, how generous am I with my time and talents in the Christian Community?
Here in this sacred space, the Lord Jesus welcomes us to sit around the table of his Word and the table of his Body. He is our model of hospitality par excellence. May we work at improving the quality of hospitality for one another.
The Rev. Fr. Dr. T. Becket A. Franks, O.S.B.
Ordinary Time, Cycle C