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Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time: Entertaining the angels that come to our door

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Sunday Scripture readings, July 21, 2019

Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Cycle C

1) Gn 18:1-10

Psalm 15:2-5

2) Col 1:24-28

Gospel: Lk 10:38-42

In our first reading, God appears to Abraham, but Abraham doesn’t know it’s God.

God takes the form of three travelers who pass by Abraham’s campsite during the blazing heat of midday, as Abraham sits in the shade of the huge tree under which his tent is pitched. That Abraham doesn’t know the travelers are God is crucial for understanding what happens next.

As soon as Abraham sees the travelers, he starts running around. He runs to them and asks them to do him a favor (!) and make his campsite their rest stop.

Then he sprints to his herd and chooses a calf — not just a little lamb, but a calf — has it slaughtered and butchered, roasts a good cut, and spurs his wife, Sarah, to bake bread. (Did I mention that Abraham is 99 years old?) After this explosion of activity, he stands by like a waiter while the guests dine — a perfect picture of Middle Eastern courtesy.

Thinking of this scene, a New Testament author wrote: “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares” (Heb 13:2, Revised Standard Version).

 

His point: God comes to us, too, without our being aware of it. If you think about it, angels of God — “angels” means messengers — are in some ways the only beings that come to our door, since everybody is a representative of God because everyone is an image of God, an icon of God.

With some passages of Scripture we have to do hard thinking to find a message for our lives. Not this passage. How simple it is! When someone comes to your door, take Abraham as your model.

Neighbors do come to my door at our condominium. They come to talk about the woodchuck that is eating our perennials, to invite us to a party, to discuss association business, to let us know that someone has died. Do I welcome them with the extravagance of Abraham?

And it is easy for any of us to extend this line of thought.

How do I greet the person who comes into my office? Into my classroom? Into my emergency trauma room? What kind of hospitality do I show the person who comes up to my counter at McDonald’s? Who pulls the truck up to my unloading dock? Who gets in my car for an Uber ride?

How do I treat all those angels?

Perrotta is the editor and an author of the “Six Weeks With the Bible” series, teaches part time at Siena Heights University and leads Holy Land pilgrimages. He lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

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