Blog # 458 Hospitality
This week when after reflecting on the passage in Luke's Gospel telling of the well known visit of Jesus to the home of Martha and Mary, ( Luke 10 25-37) I looked up the references to hospitality in the Bible. Here are samples of the references I found.
To refuse to give hospitality or to violate the laws of hospitality was looked upon as disgraceful. (Jb. 3132; Gen. 19:5ff; Jgs. 19: 22f). Likewise a refusal to accept hospitality was considered an insult (Gen. 192f). Exhortations to practice hospitality are found in Is. 58;7;
Sir. 11: 29-34; 1 Tim. 3:2; Heb.12:2; 1 Pet. 4:9. In the New Testament particularly in the Gospels, hospitality plays an important role. Jesus often received hospitality as a guest and He praised the virtue of hospitality in His parables. ( Lk. 10:34f; 11: 5,f; 14: 2 ). Hospitality is given as a gift of the Holy Spirit.( 1 Pet. 4: 9f), and it offers the possibility of coming in touch with the invisible world. Hospitality offered to strangers for the sake of Jesus is considered as given to Jesus Himself. ( Mt. 25: 35f0.
It was at Martha's invitation that Jesus came to their home. Then she got busy with the cooking. To make His visit a social experience rather than simply a meal as one in a restaurant would be, Mary was speaking with Jesus in the parlor. Martha complained that she needed help with the food. Jesus affirms Mary's behavior without denying the value of Martha's part in the total experience.
I remember on more than one occasion in my seminary training when a spiritual director in an ordinary weekly conference to the seminarians would recall this incident from the life of the Lord to remind us of the danger of getting so involved in good works there would not be enough room for prayer and reflection, the "better part" chosen by Mary in contrast to the activity in which Martha seemed to be completely absorbed.
We were told it was not to be a question of either-or, activity or contemplation, but a
proper combination of both. Our prayer was to be the 'soul' of our good works, giving them new
meaning and life, raising them from the level of good, merely human experiences to the level of
Christian love and worship, gifts in us, through Jesus, to the Father.
This week I asked Martha and Mary a question. What kind of person are you? Both of them were holy, yet each one of them was different. Then I asked the same question of myself. What kind of person are you? That is a significant question and the process of answering it was interesting. It was like discovering who I am all over again. Martha and Mary were doing what they did the way they did it because they were a certain type of person. So it is with me and with all of us. God loves each of us uniquely and offers each of us whatever it is we need to accomplish the Father's will uniquely. It is something like having a finger print that is our own,
Some of the elements in our personal identity are given and cannot be changed, our age for example. One of us is Chinese, another is Greek, a third French-Italian etc., and this element of our identity as persons is fixed. Even these fixed elements of our personal identity are important, and can have a significant part to play in determining the type of person we are. But more important, especially with reference to our identity in Heaven are those elements that are variable, that can be chosen and changed by us in freedom, directed toward a specific purpose, developed or abandoned as we see them helping or hindering our growth and our goal.
To help us here, we ask such questions as: Am I primarily a self-centered person? Am I genuinely interested in the welfare of others? Am I a generous person? Am I able and willing to listen to those around me when they speak, to listen with my heart open to them when with no words they speak to me from their hearts, broken, wounded perhaps, and in need of sympathy and understanding? Do I desire to grow as a person? Do I pray? Do I pray enough?
You may have noticed I have applied the notion of hospitality in these questions on a level other than merely inviting others for dinner. What I have done is apply the notion of hospitality to invitations to enter my life rather than my dining room, on a spiritual level, to someone hungry and thirsty for understanding, acceptance, companionship, and love..
Back in the seminary we had a daily experience of an 'examination of conscience'. These are the type of questions we would ask ourselves in the presence of the Lord in chapel. It was a significant daily experience because it gave the Lord an invitation to help us grow as persons and prepare us to love the Lord, ourselves, and others more perfectly. Do you think something like that would be good for you?