Monday, February 29, 2016

Hospitality (Henri J.M. Nouwen)

“Hospitality is one of the richest biblical terms that can deepen and broaden our insight in our relationships with our fellow human beings.  Old and New Testament stories not only show how serious our obligation is to welcome the stranger in our home, but they also tell us that guests are carrying precious gifts with them, which they are eager to reveal to a receptive host.  When Abraham received three strangers at Mamre and offered them water, bread and a fine tender calf, the revealed themselves to him as messengers of God announcing that Sarah his wife would give birth to a son (Genesis 18:1-15).  When the wide of Zarephath offered food and shelter to Elijah, he revealed himself as a man of God offering her an abundance of oil and meal and raising her son from the dead (I Kings 17:9-24).  When the two travelers to Emma's invited the stranger, who had joined them on the road to stay with them for the night, he made himself known through the breaking of the bread as their Lord (Luke 24:13-35).
When hostility is converted into hospitality then fearful strangers can become guests revealing to their hosts the promise they are carrying with them.  Then, in fact, the distinction between host and guest proves to be artificial and evaporated in the recognition of the new found unity.

Thus the biblical stories help us to realize not just that hospitality is an important virtue, but even more that in the context of hospitality guest and host can reveal their most precious gifts and bring new life to each other.”

[Reaching Out, Henri J.M. Nouwen]

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