Holy Hospitality | Friar Reflections | The Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Dear parishioners,

The Saints of God, the Lord be with you!

Today’s first reading from the book of Genesis (18:1-10) recounts the story of Abraham and Sarah giving hospitality to three strangers. In the ancient world, the gift of hospitality was
the norm, not the exception.

On reading this story, I couldn’t help but gaze on one of my favorite icons by the 15th century Russian master Andrei Rublev, who depicts this scene as Three divine beings, pictured as angels, seated around a table. At the head of the table to the left, is God the Father, in the center, the Son, and to the right the Holy Spirit, with the wings of all three forming an open circle, which may symbolize spiritual unity, peace, and mutual love.

Rublev’s famous icon showing the three angels being hosted by Abraham at Mambré, 1425

What’s interesting is that the circle is not closed, but open, and some art historians suggest that the small rectangle on the side of the table facing the viewer may have held a mirror, thus making the viewer part of the scene. This first reading, as well as the Rublev icon, pairs well with today’s well known Gospel reading (Lk 10:38-42) of Martha and Mary, offering hospitality to Jesus.

Martha takes on the burden of doing all the serving, while Mary sits at the feet of Jesus listening to Him speak. Despite the protestations of Martha, Jesus will not require Mary to leave her place and help her sister since, “Mary has chosen the better part.”

I don’t know about you, but often I come to Mass burdened with my own personal struggles, family issues, ministerial demands, or worrisome world and national issues facing all of us. The worst thing I can do is to feel so overwhelmed that I begin to skip my morning private prayer, the friar’s communal morning and evening prayer, or the celebration of the Eucharist. I’ve discovered that when most burdened by whatever, the Lord kindly offers me the opportunity to spend time in His presence.

Though my burdens don’t magically disappear, prayer seems to sanctify them, and they seem to lose some of their heaviness. By responding to the Lord’s invitation to spend time with Him, I am given renewed strength as well as the understanding that I am part of a holy community that will help carry what I cannot carry by myself.

As we celebrate this weekend’s liturgy, whether in person or via the live stream, let us remember that the God of holy hospitality invites us to come even with our burdens and sin. Let us remember that our encounter with Christ today can change us more and more into His image if we let Him. Then, to imitate that great open circle of holy hospitality in the Rublev icon, let us offer and invite someone to share and sit at our table to be refreshed, restored, and renewed.

Peace and all good,
Fr. Steve