This Sunday the Church listens to Christ in the Gospel of Luke. (10: 38-42) In yet another familiar Gospel story, Jesus enters the home of his friends, Martha and Mary. Martha is busy with the many ancient demands of hospitality, while Mary sits at the feet of Jesus. Even though Martha’s heart is in the right place, serving her visitor, she fails to recognize a higher calling of hospitality of simply ‘being present’ to Jesus. It is this behavior Jesus exhorts by praising Mary, who ‘chose the better part.’
This Gospel account along with the first reading from Genesis (18: 1-10) hold an important key for unlocking a solution to the many challenges faced by the world’s family today. First, we have a great need in society to conquer our fears and be willing to welcome one another. In today’s first reading from the Book of Genesis, Abraham welcomes three strangers. In stead of suspicion, Abraham welcomes the three visitors, offering them water, food and rest, to say nothing of engaging in conversation which leads to understanding. These are the basics by which human relationships are built. As we know if we read the rest of this story, Abraham and Sarah received a blessing in return from their three visitors.
More and more today, the world itself is looking like the United Nations as the world population disperses. Many are fleeing their homelands because of drought or disease, political unrest, wars and persecution. Those of us blessed with stable citizenship and homes are in a position to extend the most basic human kindness of hospitality to the millions of people who seek the simple necessities of life. It is a tortuous temptation to want a national population to look alike and share the same customs and traditions. We must welcome and celebrate the richness and diversity of a world population. It is not easy, but such is required if we are to achieve greater harmony and peace in our world today.
We must be better capable of engaging one another with humility and respect. In our own country, we are painfully aware that racism is still alive and well. Color of skin does not define any one of us, and our well-being as a nation demands that we welcome one another as neighbors, as brothers and sisters of the one family of God. Human dignity is rooted in the One God who has created all things, and who creates every human person in his own image and likeness. Racism diminishes all of us.
Skin color, manner of dress, faith and cultural traditions are important. They are sources of enriching human society, and we are impoverished when we try to expel or suppress any one of these. But the dignity of every human person is the interior foundation of each of these exterior manifestations. Human dignity is common to all of us, and what makes each of us equal in the eyes of God. True equality is found only in God, no matter one’s faith or the lack thereof.
The Gospel teaches another clear, but subtle truth, which goes beyond human hospitality. Martha and Mary did not welcome just any person into their home; they welcomed Jesus. He alone brings salvation. Jesus entered into the human family as one like us in all things but sin. Jesus, the source of all life came to redeem life. Jesus, who is the Son of God, became the Son of Man, to be God’s living presence in the world, and the Physician healing humanity’s many failures to love.
God who created every human person necessarily is the Father of one human family. Jesus through his work of reconciliation and redemption has made us heirs, children of God, brothers and sisters. Here is how St. Paul sees this truth:
For those who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, “Abba, Father!” The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him. (Romans 8: 14-17)
Jesus did not impose himself or his teachings upon anyone. Rather, he attracted them with mercy and love and allowed his teaching to naturally attract us by its authentic coherence. Part of our human dignity entails the truth of God which is written on every human heart.
Jesus welcomed every human person. We must do the same. Jesus entered into the many realities of human frailty and suffering, no matter the demands placed upon him. We must do the same. Jesus did not tolerate sinful behaviors, but forgave and healed the sinner and the consequences of sin. We are called to do likewise.
In offering hospitality to those in need, we welcome Christ. Jesus offers the peace that we long for, the peace the world cannot give. Let us welcome Christ and sit at his feet.
Behold, I stand at the door and knock, says the Lord. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door to me, I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me. (Revelation 3:20)