July 8, 2022
Dear Sisters and Brothers in the Lord,
Welcome to Disciples Together on the Way. Today we continue to develop the theme of the virtues. Last week, you recall, we prayed the Litany of Humility. That was seven days, if you like, of decluttering our hearts, minds and souls to make more room for God and a life of virtue. Today, therefore, let’s explore the simple virtues of generosity and hospitality so that we can grow as Christian disciples in our love of God and our love of neighbor.
The twin virtues of generosity and hospitality help us to acknowledge and affirm the humanity of other people. The word generosity comes from the term “gene” meaning to bring forth or beget. In a certain sense when we show generosity to someone, we bring forth and emphasize their humanity — their dignity.
On the other end, there is also something sacred in receiving the generosity of another. It shows a receptivity to the person showing the generosity. In both cases, giving or receiving, we are saying, “I acknowledge and reverence your humanity.”
When, in a spirit of charity, I give another person my time, talent, or treasure, I am sharing a piece of myself and the other is receiving a part of me. This exchange echoes the very nature of the Trinity in which God the Father offers himself completely to the Son as a gift of love, and the Son receives that gift and offers himself back to the Father completely. From that dynamic gift, given, received, and shared, proceeds the Holy Spirit. We get to participate in that mystery of the Trinity every time we show generosity!
In pondering the virtue of hospitality, the Biblical story of Abraham welcoming the three strangers illustrates this idea very clearly. We find it in the Chapter 18 of the Book of Genesis. Abraham — who is by now quite elderly — is wondering how the Lord will fulfill his promise to make him the father of many nations since his wife Sarah is also old and beyond child-bearing years. When three strangers show up outside his tent, Abraham RUNS to meet them and bows low before them begging them to stay so that he might serve them a meal while they wash their feet and refresh themselves from the heat of the day. They take Abraham up on his offer, and Abraham rushes to have a meal prepared for them, and when all the provisions have been made, he himself — Abraham, the chief of his tribe — waits on them at table. The strangers later go on to foretell that in a year Sarah will give birth to a son. It is interesting to note that in the Eastern Christian tradition, the three strangers who came to Abraham are understood to be the Holy Trinity in disguise. Indeed, there is a famous icon depicting these three strangers and it is understood that it is an icon of the Trinity.
The Latin root of the word hospitality — hospes — means both stranger and guest and our old story of Abraham and the three strangers reminds us that hospitality is a very ancient human reality with deep connections to faith and ritual.
There are many stories in the Bible that illustrate how God honors kindness shown to a stranger. This includes the story of Rahab and the Hebrew spies in the Book of Joshua or the story of Elijah and the Widow at Zaraphath in the First Book of Kings.
Hospitality — showing kindness to a stranger — is even written into the Law of the Hebrew people as set out in Leviticus: “The stranger who sojourns with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.” (Leviticus 19:34 RSVCE).
Meanwhile, in the New Testament, Jesus preaches extensively on hospitality, and one of his most well-known parables — the Parable of the Good Samaritan — reiterates how God expects us to treat strangers. The Letter to the Hebrews adds: “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” (Hebrews 13:2 RSVCE).
With all of this in mind, I’ll now present to you this week’s challenge: Invite a family to your home for a meal or take a meal to a homebound person. Remember, the virtues of generosity and hospitality are close to God’s heart.
Until next week, may God bless you, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Yours in Christ,
+ Earl Boyea
Bishop of Lansing