This is the last practice for the Practices of Resurrection series during the season of Eastertide before Pentecost which marks the beginning of Ordinary Time. I resisted writing this blog about hospitality not because I don’t think the topic is important but because my brain is fried due to being in quarantine so long. I can’t even begin to write about what it means to practice hospitality when we can’t even have people in our homes! Yet biblical hospitality calls us to something entirely different. It is far more than just baking a pie and sitting around a lovely set table, it’s about welcoming the stranger and feeding the hungry.
The greek word often used for hospitality is the φιλόξενος (philoxenos) which means “loving strangers”. The last part of this word that means “stranger” which can also be translated as “alien, foreigner, or guest”. Given that much of our hospitality mindset has been Americanized to beautiful homes and fancy dinners, this feels quite uncomfortable. Yet it was also a bit uncomfortable for Jesus’s followers too:
Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25: 34-40
When it comes to biblical hospitality, there is no beautifully set table or entertaining involved, only obedient hearts that are willing to open their lives to strangers among them. This, my friend, is a high calling and one many will not take because the demand on our life is great. With that said, we can begin welcoming the stranger today through simple acts of kindness and growing in our awareness of the stranger among us.
See The Stranger
Hospitality starts with seeing the stranger first. We cannot welcome the alien or feed the hungry if they are invisible to us! I love what the righteous people asked Jesus in the passage above “When did we see you hungry, tired, thirsty…?” Jesus’ simple yet profound answer reveals the heart of God to us “whatever you did for the least of these…you did for me.” God is for the marginalized and the alien, and we are to be as well.
Practice seeing the stranger
Over the next week, if you encounter a stranger, look them in the eye and say hello. If you are so bold, roll your window down and strike up a conversation with a panhandler! Practice seeing people this week and ask God to begin opening up opportunities for you to see with your human eyes and engage with your heart, the stranger among you.
Pray for the Stranger
Seeing the poor through our heart is just important as through our eyes. In order for us to truly love and welcome the stranger, our hearts must be postured in humble prayer toward them. I encourage all of us to say this simple prayer daily for this week of practicing hospitality.
God of Justice,Being Neighbor – Catechism and Social Justice, Catholic Campaign for Human Development
open our eyes
to see you in the face of the poor.
Open our ears
to hear you in the cries of the exploited.
Open our mouths
to defend you in the public squares
as well as in private deeds.
Remind us that what we do
to the least ones,
we do to you.
Love The Stranger
Biblical hospitality doesn’t stop short of seeing or praying, we are called to love the stranger and there isn’t a more perfect story then of the Good Samaritan to drive this point home.
On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” Luke 10:25-37
This parable paints a tremendous picture of love for the stranger. The Samaritan not only stopped to help the stranger on the side of the road but ensured the future of this stranger was taken care of. What great mercy! This parable can feel like a heavy command for us to obey. Is God really asking us to take care of every homeless person we meet on the street? The need is too great to meet! Especially in places like my hometown of Portland, OR. Then how do we love the stranger in our midst practically?
Here are a few suggestions:
- Give financial support to ministries helping the hungry and homeless. Every city has organizations needing financial support, Google some in your area and start giving.
- Volunteer your time. My church has a food pantry which is a great way to literally minister and feed the hungry in my city.
- Get to know your neighbors; Their names, stories and struggles. The “least of these” may just live right next door to you!
Biblical hospitality goes far beyond Pinterest and foodie recipes, it is about the position of our hearts towards the stranger and the hungry who live in our communities. It doesn’t look pretty, it is certainly not convenient nor Instagram worthy but it is faithful and overflowing with the mercy of God. If we step outside of comfortable homes, begin to look strangers in the eye and lend a helping hand to those in need, we are participating in the hospitality of God. No Pinterest board needed, just obedient hearts.
As we wrap up the Practices of Resurrection series this week for Eastertide, let these practices we have been folding into our daily rhythms for the past six weeks extend into our whole life. Jesus is still risen and is forever risen in power giving us a new hope that is found only in Him. He is risen!