Today’s readings are about hospitality, entertaining angels and the Son of God. Are you a Martha or a Mary when it comes to welcoming people? When I think of my experience in Africa, I think back to my first encounter in South Africa, being greeted by the Immigration officer. He asked me if I was in South Africa on business or for fun. I smiled widely and responded, “FUN!!” He handed me back my passport with a smile equally as large and said, “Welcome!”
The story of the angels and Abram and Jesus with Martha and Mary also points to the need for welcoming those who are different than us. How often do we meet someone and judge them by appearance or by behaviour? I cannot imagine what Abram and Sarai had running through their heads upon seeing the “men” arrive at their tent. What runs through our minds when we meet the Other, someone who is incredibly different than we are?
I saw a play last night at the Fringe Festival entitled, They Call Me Mister Fry. The actor was the real Grade 5 teacher whose first year at a school in South Central Los Angeles taught him valuable lessons about looking beyond tough exteriors. It is a redemptive story and it made me think of a sacred story that one of the group members in South Africa shared with me about her life one night when we roomed together. This encounter was one of the most profound experiences of my journey. I was so amazed by the inner strength and fortitude of this person.
South Africa holds many memories for me of resilient people. Some of these people would not be welcomed upon arrival, lacking limbs, bearing scars, and revealing a hard exterior. The pain is sometimes etched forever on the person’s face. Others seemed like the body of Christ, present in earthly form again. I hope that I can welcome the angels and Christ figures in my life with joy and comfort and not judgment and horror. Choosing the better part can be challenging but the rewards can be a blessing.