Both our first reading and gospel this Sunday show great examples of the gift of hospitality. Hospitality was and is so much a part of the Middle Eastern culture. It is engrained in the people.
In our first reading, Abraham invites three strangers to a meal and his offer is accepted. To refuse hospitality would have been an insult. Such was the culture of Abraham in which a man’s reputation was measured more by his generosity and hospitality than by his wealth or status in society. Consider the amount of food set before Abraham’s three visitors. Three measures of flour is the equivalent of a half bushel or 30 pounds of flour. That’s a lot of rolls in addition to a whole roasted calf set before the visitors. Such was the culture of hospitality in which Jesus would provide 150 gallons of choice wine for a wedding feast and feed 5,000 with twelve baskets of food left over. The leftovers would not go to waste, but placing far more before the guests than they could eat was a mark of generous hospitality. What are some indicators of a person’s character or importance in our Canadian society? Abraham did not show hospitality so as to get anything in return, but, through the visitors, God promises to be generous to Abraham in return by finally granting him a son through Sarah. God is never outdone in generosity!!
Martha, in our gospel story, is in the same tradition as Abraham in showing hospitality. Her sister Mary also shared the same basic attitude of showing hospitality to visitors, but she had different priorities than her sister in making Jesus welcome to their home. The two attitudes are meant to be complementary, not in opposition to each other. There is a time to be active in service of the Lord, as last week’s parable of the Good Samaritan shows, and there is a time to sit at the feet of Jesus and listen. The trick lies in knowing when is the right time for what.
How would you show hospitality to Jesus should he come to your home? How do you show Christian hospitality to others?