Irenic Thoughts

Irenic. The word means peaceful. This web log (or blog) exists to create an ongoing, and hopefully peaceful, series of comments on the life of King of Peace Episcopal Church. This is not a closed community. You are highly encouraged to comment on any post or to send your own posts.


Welcoming Strangers

In this weekend's Gospel reading, Jesus tells the story of a rich man who "was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day." Jesus tells us that this man did nothing for Lazarus a poor beggar who lay at his gate and was "covered with sores, who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man's table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores." Both men die. Lazarus goes to paradise to be comforted by Abraham and the rich man to torment.

It is interesting to read what past generations of Christians thought of a reading. John Chrysostom (347-407) is reported to have been the greatest preacher of the end of the fourth century. He saw this parable as being one about the need to offer hospitality to those who can not repay you. In preaching on this parable, he once said,
It is worthwhile inquiring why the rich man saw Lazarus in Abraham's arms, and not in the company of some other righteous person. The reason is that Abraham was hospitable, and so the sight of Lazarus with Abraham was meant to reproach the rich man for his own inhospitality.

Abraham used to pursue even passers-by and drag them into his home, whereas the rich man disregarded someone lying in his own doorway.

Although he had within his grasp so great a treasure, such an opportunity to win salvation, he ignored the poor man day after day. He could have helped him but he failed to do so.

The patriarch was not like that but just the opposite. He would sit in his doorway and catch all who passed by. And just as a fisherman casting a net into the sea hauls up fish, yes, but also quite often gold and pearls, so Abraham whilst catching people in his net finished by catching angels, though strangely enough without knowing it.

Even Paul marvels at this and gives the advice: Remember to welcome strangers into your homes, for some by so doing have entertained angels without knowing it.

And he did well to say without knowing it, for if Abraham had welcomed his guests with such kindness because he knew who they were he would have done nothing remarkable.

He is praiseworthy only because, without knowing who the passers-by were and taking them to be simply human wayfarers, he yet invited them in with so much good will....

Anyone wishing to show kindness should not inquire into other people's lives, but has only to alleviate their poverty and supply their needs, as Christ commanded when he said: Imitate your Father in heaven, who makes his sun rise on good and bad alike, and sends rain on the just and the unjust.

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  • At 9/29/2007 10:23 AM, Anonymous Linda+ said…

    In my sermon on this for tomorrow, I am quoting Jane Tomaine's St.Benedict's Toolbox in her chapter "Benedictine Hospitality: Hearts Overflowing with Love" in which she stakes a claim on hospitality as a justice issue. She says (p.128) "Hospitality says that the issues of the poor are our problem and that we must take steps for positive change in the lives of others. Hospitality is a call to action . . . We can be the voice that calls for justice and equity." Amen I say. Amen.


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