Saturday, May 31, 2014

Exercise Hospitality

Rejoice in hope, endure in affliction, persevere in prayer.  Contribute to the needs of the holy ones, exercise hospitality.  Romans 12:12-13

He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty.  Luke 1:53

Let all guests who arrive be received like Christ, for He is going to say, "I came as a guest, and you received Me" (Matt. 25:35).  And to all let due honor be shown, especially to the domestics of the faith and to pilgrims.  (Rule of St. Benedict, Chapter 53: On the Reception of Guests)

Mary and Elizabeth are a study in contrasts.  First we encounter a woman so young and inexperienced that she has become pregnant without having “relations with a man.” (Luke 1:34b).  Then we have the sign given to Mary in confirmation of the angel’s announcement to her is the pregnancy of her aged relative Elizabeth. If a woman past the childbearing age could become pregnant, why, the angel implies, should there be doubt about Mary’s pregnancy, for nothing will be impossible for God.

Is it any wonder that they had a lot to discuss?  Mary hastened to see Elizabeth and stayed three months. This kind of open hospitality is the perfect metaphor for all things biblical. Where people live, what they eat or do not eat, with whom they spend time, and more are the constant themes spread throughout sacred history and our ordinary times as well. 

Hospitality abounds.  Adam and Eve are welcomed into a garden to live…and then expelled. Noah invites pairs of all species onto his allegorical houseboat.  From kings to shepherds to kings, the Bible is about these ordinary encounters of hospitality that become extraordinary when Jesus dwells inside Mary.  Mary visits Elizabeth.  There is no room at the inn.  The Son of Man has no place to lay his head until his head is laid in a cave and covered with a rock. Down to the very end when he invites his friends one last time to a breakfast of fish grilled on an open fire.  And his final commands to Peter is one of hospitality:  "Feed my sheep!"

Exercise hospitality. It’s more fun than dining alone. 

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