The first and third readings today speak in a serious way about hospitality and how often Jesus comes to us but in ways that do not seem to God-like. The story of Martha and Mary welcoming their friend, Jesus, and the story of the good Samaritan we heard last week, both address the issue of hospitality. It is clear that Jesus, like most people of his country looked upon hospitality as a very important part of living.
"Loving one's neighbor as oneself" is not an unknown expression of an inbred manner of living. However, in our times, because of various social conditions that seem to mandate double locks on doors, peepholes and at times not answering knocks at our doors. Even among those of us who profess a Christian life, openness to strangers is a true challenge.
In the first reading, from the Book of Genesis, if we try to read between the lines, we might be surprised that the three people who come to Abraham and Sarah are not other the God Himself and two angels. And it is the same in the days of the post-Resurrection life of Jesus. Strangers come to us but do we take the time to consider if such individuals might not be Jesus coming to us. What these two stories teach us is a very simple lesson: treat every stranger we meet with respect. Perhaps if our society accepted this as a way of life, there might be less violence in society, there might be a growing awareness of how often Jesus tries to come into our lives.
It is so easy to ignore others who might be gift-bearers from God. It is so easy to consider these losses as water over the dam! Sarah and Abraham learned from one of the gentlemen who came out of nowhere, so it seems, that kindness and respect to a stranger does not go unrewarded. Recall the promise made to them by this stranger and his companions: "This time next year I will surely return ... and your wife will have a son." And, as we know, this happened.
The message? Simple: When we welcome God into our lives, he will always come back but not in the same way and in way that are totally unexpected. Hospitality toward a stranger is a genuine test of our trust in God. Are we comfortable with "water over the dam"?