Friday, February 03, 2017

Christian Hospitality

By Colleen O’Sullivan

Let brotherly love continue.  Do not neglect hospitality, for through it some have unknowingly entertained angels.  Be mindful of prisoners as if sharing their imprisonment, and of the ill-treated as of yourselves, for you also are in the body…  Remember your leaders who spoke the word of God to you.  Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.  Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.   (Hebrews 13:1-3, 7-8)

The Lord is my light and my salvation;
whom should I fear?
The Lord is my life’s refuge;
of whom should I be afraid?   (Psalm 27:1)

May we be gracious bearers of the Light to those of every village and nation whose lives have been uprooted by hunger, poverty, homelessness, terrorism, or war.

In this final chapter of the Letter to the Hebrews, the writer reminds the Jewish Christians how their faith in Christ should play out in their everyday lives.  The very first thing mentioned is hospitality.  When a stranger comes knocking at the door of your house or your country, treat them in a warm, friendly, generous way.  You never know who your guests may turn out to be.  After all, Abraham unsuspectingly invited angels into his tent. 
In the Old Testament world, people generally didn’t travel very far, because wherever you went, you generally got there by walking.  When a stranger, someone from (relatively) afar, came calling, hospitality became a two-way street.  The host offered welcome, food, drink, and a place to rest.  The guest, in turn, provided tales of the wider world and, therefore, the chance for the host’s horizons to be broadened by images of other people, customs and places that are equally part of God’s world.
Christians continued what their forebears considered a way of life.  In the Rule of St. Benedict, for example, the practice of hospitality plays a prominent role.  When you open the door to a guest, you are to welcome the person as though Jesus Christ himself is waiting on your doorstep.
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) 
In the salutation of all guests, whether arriving or departing,
let all humility be shown.
Let the head be bowed
or the whole body prostrated on the ground
in adoration of Christ, who indeed is received in their persons.
Caring for and welcoming the most vulnerable in our world shouldn’t be a political issue.  It’s neither a Democratic nor a Republican agenda item.  It’s a faith stance.  This is what Jesus expects of us as Christians, no matter how we choose to vote.  In Matthew 25, our Lord relates the parable of the sheep and the goats.  When Christ returns in glory, he says his friends will be those who have fed the hungry, given drink to the thirsty, welcomed the stranger, clothed the naked, cared for the sick and visited the imprisoned.
Take some time today to read an excellent article, “Why I advocate for refugees,” by Fr. James Martin, S.J.  If you are willing to become an advocate, too, go to the website Justice for Immigrants at and sign on.

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