1986 July 20 16th Sun Ord Time (Bulletin Letters)
July l8, 1986
This Sunday’s first reading is one of my favorite Old Testament texts. I used it often when I was at the Catholic Worker House. A lot of people get involved in the hospitality of a Catholic Worker House with the expectation of helping the poor. This ‘helping the poor’ attitude is often paternalistic and is one of the first things a person must change if they are to stay on with the work. A hospitality house is a space where ‘those who have’ share with ‘those who have not.’ For those who have, it is an embarrassment that such a space is needed and for those who have not, it is a matter of justice that such space exists. The distinction between haves and have nots is not sufficient reason to treat a person less than an equal and special when they are guests.
The story of Abraham and his hospitality serve as a model for all of us. The fears and dangers from strangers were no less real in Abraham and Sarah’s t1mes than they are today. Yet for Abraham, the Code of Hospitality was sacred. Abraham took in complete strangers (aliens), gave them the best food and drink he could offer and honored them as if they were royalty, unconcerned about their social/economic position. In doing so, Abraham and Sarah discovered something about themselves they would not have otherwise known; that a child would be born from them in fulfillment of God’s promise. Genuine hospitality is like that. When offered, hosts discover more about themselves in the process.
The Abrahamic Code of Hospitality seems out of step in our present society as individuals and communities become more and more fearful and threatened by strangers, aliens, the marginalized and the poor. The challenge for us today is to break down our individual and collective fears of the stranger and reach out to all who are in need. Who knows? In our reaching out we might discover the needed self-knowledge to make our world a better place for all to live.
Peace, Fr. Frank