16th Sunday in Ordinary Time
July 21, 2019
Remember always to welcome strangers,
For by doing this, some people have entertained angels without knowing it.
Abraham is standing by his tent in the heat of the day. He is a Bedouin, a nomad, probably sitting in the shade, when he spots three strangers approaching. As soon as he sees them, Abraham rushes out to greet these travelers, and, drawing near, bows to the ground before them as a formal sign of welcome. What Abraham does not realize, of course, is that this is actually the Lord God who has disguised himself. Abraham has just offered hospitality to God. Notice that there are three: already a hidden hint of the Trinity.
Imagine the moment. The same Lord God, who walked in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve, now approaches Abraham. Abraham, who has been chosen to be the ancestor of Jesus and the father of all people of faith, is going to have a conversation with God face to face. Some day we will all have this experience when, at death, God will approach us and speak to us directly. Will we be ready for that day? Abraham was ready, even though he did not know he was entertaining God himself.
What we hear in the Scriptures are not just stories. Instead, they are clues: clues as to how God also operates in our own lives. We should not be a bit surprised to one day discover that many of us have been visited by an angel in disguise in one form or another, as a helper or as a test of some sort. After all, the author of the letter to the Hebrews states very clearly to be very careful to be welcoming to strangers, for by doing this, some people have entertained angels without knowing it (Hebrews 13:2).
One thing we learn clearly from the Scriptures is that every moment of our lives counts. Life is not meant to be just a pleasant holiday on the one hand or an apparently meaningless collection of events and sufferings leading nowhere on the other. No, the Lord God is intimately involved in our lives. He who has counted every hair on our heads watches and observes all we do and allows us to be tested on a regular basis.
I don’t know how many of you remember taking your IQ test. I believe I was in the 7th grade, and took this exam, having no idea of how it would follow me in my school records all the way through college (yes, I did ask to see it when I was older and no, I won’t tell you what my IQ is!). So life is a bit like taking a timed test. Yes, it is true that we can blow life off or not follow the rules, but this does not change the fact that our whole future in the next world depends on how we take the test now. Will I have faith like Abraham? Will I recognize God in the strangers and needy in my own life, among my family, co-workers, friends and acquaintances. One of them just might be God -- in disguise.