Welcoming the Stranger

Abraham and the Three Angels, James Jacques Joseph Tissot

“Do not neglect hospitality, for through it some have unknowingly entertained angels (Hebrews 13:2).” Perhaps one of the greatest examples of this is Abraham rushing out to welcome three men standing near his tent (Genesis 18:1-15). He begged them to come, wash their feet, rest, and eat before continuing on their journey. In return, the men (actually the Lord’s messengers in disguise) promised that he and his wife Sarah would have the child long promised by God within a year. 

I try to remember these Scripture passages when I am struggling with hospitality. Some people live to entertain. I am always amazed by stories of people hosting 40 people in their home on a regular basis or those who invite random strangers to share a meal.

I, on the other hand, am very introverted. Had those men been standing outside my tent, my first instinct would have been to go back into my tent and close the flap! There are days when I think I would have made a pretty good hermit, as long as I had some good books to read.

Reaching out to people (even people I know and love) and inviting them over causes me stress. I worry about cleaning the house and getting things ready and preparing food. Ironically, I am the default house for family get-togethers! Yes, God definitely wants me to continue to work on this area of weakness.

As with everything, practice helps. I’ve had enough opportunity over the years to get more adept and comfortable with these tasks of entertaining. I continue to force myself to get out of my comfort zone. When I invite people, and they in turn ask to bring other people, I always welcome them. I also make a point of having my home be always open to my children’s friends. I want them to feel comfortable here. Growing up, I treasured my friend’s homes where I was treated with kindness. Today, I try to extend that kindness to other young people.

I’ve made great strides. Yet, I know that I have a long way to go to reach the level of hospitality encouraged by Scripture. We are called to see Christ in the strangers among us. We are instructed to welcome them, to offer them food and drink and clothing. “Give to everyone who asks of you, and from the one who takes what is yours do not demand it back.” (Luke 6:30)

In fact, this is the standard by which we will be judged at the end of time. “For I was hungry and you gave me food. I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.  .  . . Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? . . . And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25: 35-40)

Like Abraham, we are called to welcome the stranger, and to do so with enthusiasm. In doing so, we welcome Christ himself. Whenever I have the urge to hide inside my “tent” and close the door, I will continue to remind myself of that fact.

Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur has a Master of Arts degree in Applied Theology from Elms College. A former Senior Editor at Catholic Lane, she is now the editor of Today's Catholic Homeschooling. She is also the author of The Catholic Baby Name Book and Letters to Mary from a Young Mother. She has two biological sons and one adopted daughter. Visit her blog at http://spiritualwomanthoughts.blogspot.com.

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