We begin our reflection with one of the most famous biblical stories about hospitality. Abraham was sitting at the entrance of his tent trying to catch a bit of breeze. He suddenly saw three men standing nearby. He rushed to them, greeted them, and pleaded with them to stop to refresh themselves with some water and some food. He called for the servants to wash their feet and told Sarah to make bread. Then he ran to his herd of cattle and picked out a choice steer for dinner. When all was prepared, Abraham waited on the three visitors. His extravagant hospitality was rewarded with a monumental promise. Sarah would give birth to a son in a year’s time.
We continue our reflection with a second famous story about hospitality, the story of Mary and Martha. But this story has a twist. Jesus was teaching in their home. Martha, attuned to the obligation of hospitality, was frantically trying to prepare food and drink for all the guests. Her sister, Mary, had abandoned her and was scandalously sitting with the men who were listening to Jesus. Martha, quite brazenly, marched up to Jesus, interrupting his teaching. She then reprimanded him for not sending Mary back to assist her.
Jesus told Martha that she was “anxious and troubled about many things.” Maybe her problem wasn’t a hospitality issue. Could it be that she was jealous of Mary, the rebel, who had, as Jesus told Martha, “chosen the better part?”
The reward for Martha’s hospitality – opening her home to Jesus and offering water and snacks to his guests – had a built-in reward. She had a chance to listen to the teaching of Jesus, his proclamation of the kingdom of God.
Our lesson for today. Hospitality from the heart is a sacred labor blessed by God. Hospitality, though difficult at times, brings with it a blessed reward. If we only take a look, we might see the reward staring us in the face.
A FINAL THOUGHT FROM THE SCRIPTURE
“Let your love for one another continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” (Hebrews 13:1)