Matthew 25:31-46 “But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit upon his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered in his presence, and he will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left.
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’
“Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’
“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’
“Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, ‘Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons. For I was hungry, and you didn’t feed me. I was thirsty, and you didn’t give me a drink. I was a stranger, and you didn’t invite me into your home. I was naked, and you didn’t give me clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’
“Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?’
“And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.’
“And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life.”
A couple of years ago, I had the privilege of visiting a monastery in Kentucky called the Abbey of Gethsemani. I went there the week before starting my second year of seminary. I wanted to set my year off right by preparing my heart for another year of ministry training. My friend had actually recommended it to me saying how formative it was for him. I took his suggestion, and I drove up to this little town in Kentucky.
I arrived at this unassuming little monastery. I mean, the building itself isn’t magnificent, but the land it was situated on was beautiful. I knew that I would experience God at this place.
As I walked in, I saw this beautiful little post.
I knew that this monastery would welcome me in just because I had researched the Abbey online. It’s free for all participants who want to experience the monastic life. I assumed that most people visiting would be in similar situations as myself: faithful people wanting to experience Christ in a fresh way. But this place was open for all guests. It didn’t matter who the person was; the Abbey would be hospitable.
Thomas Merton, probably one of the Abbey’s most famous monks, once wrote saying, “Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. That is not our business and, in fact, it is nobody’s business. What we are asked to do is to love, and this love itself will render both ourselves and our neighbors worthy.”
Welcoming someone into your house, into your circle, into your country…might seem like a radical idea, but we can find plenty of Bible verses that speak on hospitality. In Deuteronomy, God commands the Hebrew people to love the stranger because they once were strangers in a foreign land. In Romans, Paul urges the church to extend love and mercy to the strangers. The author of Hebrews writes on hospitality in chapter 13. Pretty much the entire book of 3rd John is devoted to extending hospitality. Colossians has talk on hospitality. 1st Peter writes about being aliens.
And I barely even used all the references that I found in the concordance on hospitality.
The Monks at the Abbey of Gethsamani follow the rule of St. Benedict which explicitly mention how to welcome strangers saying in the 53rd Chapter: Let all guests who arrive be received like Christ…
It is fear that causes us to dismiss strangers. It is fear that pushes them away. It is fear that closes our hearts, and our borders, to them.
Maybe we could take a cue from the Abbey. They don’t know every single person that walks through their doors. They don’t do a background check. They don’t screen. They don’t create walls.
They trust that their mission is a godly one. Just read what it says on their website:
We are Trappist monks who have lived, prayed, and worked
in this house of the Lord for over 150 years.
As Roman Catholics gathered in community, we follow
the call of Jesus to become his disciples. Our monastery is
a school of the Lord’s service, a training ground of love.
The monk expresses this love by his desire to share life together
at the heart of the Church and to grow into Christ every day.
Our mission is praise of God’s mercy
and proclamation of the Kingdom’s approach.
We walk in the light of the gospel and strive to become fully human,
fully immersed in the work and power of the Spirit.
The vows of obedience, stability, and conversion of manners
provide our structure, support, and encouragement
to persevere in the journey, in the work, in the search.
Intently and joyfully, we live the mystery of Christ-among-us.
Maybe living like Christ means to continue welcoming the stranger…