JULY 17, 2022

The half door on the old Irish house had many functions.
It kept the animals out while allowing the family to look out.
It also made for openness and hospitality for all who passed by.
The traveller was welcomed and the one walking by could rest for a while.
We were open to the world and the world to us, and we felt safe.

Hospitality was important in Jesus’ time. He made many a visit to the house of Martha and Mary, staying there when he wanted to go to Jerusalem. They enjoyed having him – Mary just sat there listening to him – the stranger, now a friend, who told stories of how life could best be lived. I can imagine him telling the parables in their house.

The people then had a belief in the travelling and pilgrim God, the one who came our way often. The first reading is about strangers being entertained and the people didn’t know that the Lord was visiting them. When we open our heart and home to the stranger and to the neighbour we are receiving God into our lives.

The Indian poet Tagore writes – ‘and when you left I saw God’s footprints on the floor.’

Our fear of break-ins and of robbery today is destroying an easy accessibility in our neighbourhoods. Casual hospitality is more difficult than in the days of the half-door. Maybe Facebook and Twitter and other social media fulfil some of this function, impersonal though it may be. We cannot live in isolation. ‘Self knows that self is not enough’ writes the poet, Brendan Kennelly.

For friendship and love,
especially when I find it in unexpected places and people,
thank you, Lord

Donal Neary S.J.