The hospitality of strangers

July 17, 2022

In the era before inns or restaurants, travelers had to rely on the hospitality of strangers when they journeyed far from home. An upright person would be expected to provide for a traveler’s needs at a moment’s notice. Abraham and Sarah—and their servant—fulfill this expectation and then some when they see three journeying strangers outside their tent and insist they eat and rest. Though they had  never seen these travelers before, their faith taught them to see the presence of the LORD in all people. And so it was that the God’s presence was manifested when they welcomed them with hospitality. It would appear that Martha is trying to show that same hospitality when welcoming Jesus into her home. She is serving him, and presumably cooking and preparing the meal as well. So why does Jesus not support her when she complains that her sister is not helping? Perhaps he is trying to teach her that there is more to hospitality than providing food and drink. Martha was attentive to Jesus’ physical needs, but Mary was attentive to  Jesus’ mission. This, clearly, is “the better part” (Luke 10:42). Today, we are offered the better part, invited to listen to the Lord as we share in the meal he himself provides. Mary’s posture indicates that she has become a disciple of Jesus’. It is most unusual in the first century for an unmarried Jewish woman to sit at a man’s feet to listen to him speak. But it is consistent with the way Luke portrays Jesus treating women in his Gospel. Interestingly, it is in John’s Gospel that Mary is identified as the woman who anointed Jesus’ feet with oil just before he enters Jerusalem. Mary demonstrates both a contemplative and an active response to the presence of Jesus. We are encouraged to do both as well: listen to and worship the Lord, but also see the Lord in those in need and reach out and serve him in them. Amen. (Casey, Most Reverend Robert G. Pastoral Patterns. World Library  Publication, 2022)

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