Genesis 18:1-15

The Lord appeared to Abraham at the Oak at Mamre while he was sitting by the entrance of the tent during the hottest part of the day. He looked up, and there he saw three men standing near him. As soon as he saw them he ran from the entrance of the tent to meet them, and bowed to the ground. “My lord,” he said, “I beg you, if I find favour with you, kindly do not pass your servant by. A little water shall be brought; you shall wash your feet and lie down under the tree. Let me fetch a little bread and you shall refresh yourselves before going further. That is why you have come in your servant’s direction.” They replied, “Do as you say.”

Abraham hastened to the tent to find Sarah. “Hurry,” he said, “knead three bushels of flour and make loaves.” Then running to the cattle Abraham took a fine and tender calf and gave it to the servant, who hurried to prepare it. Then taking cream, milk and the calf he had prepared, he laid it all before them, and they ate while he remained standing near then under the tree.

“Where is your wife Sarah?” they asked him. “She is in the tent,” he replied. Then his guest said, “I shall visit you again next year without fail, and your wife will then have a son.” Sarah was listening at the entrance of the tent behind him. Now Abraham and Sarah were old, well on in years, and Sarah had ceased to have her monthly periods. So Sarah laughed to herself, thinking, “Now that I am past the age of child-bearing, and my husband is an old man, is pleasure to come my way again!” But the Lord asked Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Am I really going to have a child now that I am old?’ Is anything too wonderful for the Lord? At the same time next year I shall visit you again and Sarah will have a son.” “I did not laugh,” Sarah said, lying because she was afraid. But he replied, “Oh yes, you did laugh.”

Matthew 8:5-17

When Jesus went into Capernaum a centurion came up and pleaded with him. “Sir,” he said, “my servant is lying at home paralysed, and in great pain.” “I will come myself and cure him,” said Jesus. The centurion replied, “Sir, I am not worthy to have you under my roof; just give the word and my servant will be cured. For I am under authority myself, and have soldiers under me; and I say to one man: Go, and he goes; to another: Come here, and he comes; to my servant: Do this, and he does it.” When Jesus heard this he was astonished and said to those following him, “I tell you solemnly, nowhere in Israel have I found faith like this. And I tell you that many will come from east and west to take their places with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob at the feast in the kingdom of heaven; but the subjects of the kingdom will be turned out into the dark, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth.” And to the centurion Jesus said, “Go back, then; you have believed, so let this be done for you.” And the servant was cured at that moment.

And going into Peter’s house Jesus found Peter’s mother-in-law in bed with fever. He touched her hand and the fever left him, and she got up and began to wait on him.

That evening they brought him many who were possessed by devils. He cast out the spirits with a word and cured all who who were sick. This was to fulfil the prophecy of Isaiah:

He took our sicknesses away and carried out diseases for us.

Phew! It’s been a really busy weekend for me. I did a public sharing on Friday evening, and attending a wedding (Mass in the morning, and dinner in the evening) yesterday, with a Theology of the Body workshop in the afternoon. Some experiences in the weekend form my reflection for these readings which are a day late.

One of the experiences was recalling the hospitality of the people I met in India during my two trips there. One was for community service, the other was for holiday. Their hospitality struck me in a way that Christians in Singapore never does. The main thing is that whenever I visited the home of an Indian there, or even when we met outside, I was always welcomed (insisted, actually) into their home for a cup of tea and some delicious snacks. I remember when I was invited into the home of a very poor family, and I was given some biscuits to eat, while the family members only had some kind of tasteless gruel for dinner.

Essentially, what struck me was the generosity of their hospitality - they shared with their guests the best that they had to offer, like Abraham. I compared that with my own kind of hospitality, which is where I would give my guests leftover snacks that had not been eaten for a long time (even though they were still in good condition). The point is that my kind of hospitality is not sincere, because I give my guests what I don’t want. And that’s a real shame. I am, in essence, lying with my gesture of hospitality. I am showing them that they are welcome in my home with my offers of food and drink, but in effect, I am not being truthful by giving them the least of what I have to offer.

There is a saying in Hebrews to always remember to welcome strangers, because some who have done this have welcomed angels without knowing it. Abraham welcome the Lord himself, and the Lord is someone who easily sees through all our lies. He knows when we are being sincere and when we are not. I might be able to fool my guests, but I cannot fool God.

In Singapore, some of the most hospitable people I’ve met are Muslims. As someone I know puts it, the Muslims really put us Christians to shame. These are the ones who will be welcomed at the feast of the kingdom of heaven, while we, the subjects of the kingdom, will be turned out into the dark. We Christians have a lot to learn from our Muslim brothers and sisters when it comes to hospitality.

Dear Lord, please fill your children with a spirit of hospitality like that of our father Abraham, to welcome strangers into our homes and offer them the best of what we have. Amen.

Give Thanks to the Lord for: Hospitality.

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