Hospitality to God!
The theme for this weekend is hospitality to God. The first reading and the Gospel painted very beautifully the hospitality to God.
Andrei Rublev, the great Russian icon painter, is famous for his work with his ‘Old Testament Trinity’: picturing the three angels welcomed by Abraham (Genesis 18 – today’s first reading). This icon is also called ‘Welcome to the Stranger’. The table where they are seated has four sides. There are three seated figures; the fourth is an invitation to join them. Anyone praying with this icon for any length of time will feel that the invitation is somehow mutual: as you welcome the Divine Persons into your heart, they are inviting you to sit at the table with them. They are inviting you into the heart of God.
In the first reading on a hot day, Abraham sits at the entrance. He might have been enjoying the breeze on that hot day. Suddenly, he saw the three men and he recognized that it is the Lord. Some of the Fathers of the church and Eastern iconography suggest that the three figures may be the manifestation of the Trinity. In the reading Abraham begged the visitors not to pass by, but stay, so he can serve the Lord. Then he ran to the tent and asked Sarah to prepare food for them. They both prepared a delicious meal and Abraham set these before the visitors. Both the ancient Jews and the early Christians believed that the best way to show their dedication to God was to be dedicated to hospitality. In the book of Hebrews 13:1-2, we read, “Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect hospitality, for through it some have unknowingly entertained angels.”
After the meal, one of the mysterious visitors told Abraham that “I will return to you about this time next year, and Sarah will then have a son” Genesis 18:10. If we continue reading, we can see that Sarah was listening and she was laughing. In Genesis 21 we read that God did what he promised, and they had a son Isaac. In Romans chapter 9, St. Paul talks about promises and choice. He quotes from the book of Genesis 18:10 to mention the promise of the birth of Isaac. The visitors who announced that Sarah would bear a child prefigure the Annunciation made by the Archangel Gabriel to Mary. What is not possible from a human perspective.
In the first reading, Sarah is mostly involved preparing the food. We don’t see her out of the tent. Abraham is the one who spent time with visitors. In Luke’s Gospel 10: 38-42, we see Martha is engaged in serving and Mary is seated by Jesus. Martha honored God in work and Mary through her single-minded devotion. Mary sat at the feet of Jesus which means surrendered herself and gave total attention. It is part of learning. We read in the Acts of the Apostles 22:3 “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city. At the feet of Gamaliel, I was educated strictly in our ancestral law and was zealous for God, just as all of you are today.”
Two aspects of spirituality: first, doing something like Martha, and second, sitting and receiving like Mary. Martha has become a symbol of action-oriented, responsible people who get the job done. Our world and our parish churches need such dynamic and generous men, women, boys, and girls who get the job done. At the same, we have to adopt Mary into our lives too. The key to the Christian life is SETTING PRIORITIES: Jesus Christ first, then everything else. Active and busy, we have to find time every day to listen to God, our spouse, kids, and neighbors. Listening and quiet caring are essential for the success of pastoral life, family life, and every aspect of our life. Human love begins at home, and it begins with listening.
God is passing by my/your home. Do we invite him? Our heart is the place where he is welcomed. Mother Teresa often talked about the God appearing in disguise: poor and needy. We need to give attention to seeing who is passing by us. Abraham paid attention, so he didn’t miss the Lord.