Sunday, 2 July 2017

Hospitality

In Sanskrit there is a saying which has this particular phrase, athithi devo bhavaa (Guest is God-like).  It comes in a series of statements which places parents and teachers in the same privileged place like guests, all god-like.

Today's Mass readings highlight this element of hospitality when it speaks of Abraham's kind gesture towards the travellers.  He invites them in, prepares a royal banquet for them, waits on them.  They are total strangers and all of this hospitality, without being asked for it.

Sociologically it can be said that in the middle-east seeing some person in those deserts was a real joy. Hence the hospitality to anyone one comes across.  However, there is also the cultural and moral dimension that sees a guest as more than a mere mortal.  It is said that even if an enemy asks for hospitality and comes as a guest, he is to be treated like an angel.  Not only is he to be protected from any danger at whatever costs, he is to be treated royally.

This particular narration from the life of Abraham when juxtaposed with the gospel of the day where in the centurion 'does not want' to have Jesus in his house is quite interesting.  The centurion perhaps is aware that if Jesus, a Jew, were to step in his house, he would be considered impure and have to undergo the rights of purification.  But more than that the faith of the man in Jesus is something that that stands out.  He knows that Jesus can cure his servant even without making the effort of moving from his place.

The strangers bless Abraham and Sarah only after their meal and towards the end of their stay.  Here Jesus blesses the centurion even without stepping into his house... a matter of receiving Jesus into our hearts much before we receive him into our homes.  

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