Hospitality through Martha and Mary

Thanksgiving will be here before you know it. This gets me in the mood to host, which makes me reflect on hospitality. When you think of the word hospitality, who or what do you think of? Is it a person in your life? Is it someone in the Bible? Is it a cozy, familiar place? 

For me, it’s my mom. I grew up in a house that was always hosting parties. People I’d known my whole life, people I’d never met because my mom invited them over after one interaction, it didn’t matter. They were at my house. Our house was warm and inviting, and we had a big backyard. It was the perfect place for it.

My mom got her desire to host from my gandma. What they have both taught me is that measures of hospitality are not confined to a place. Hospitality is a person. And that person must be you. 

The story of Martha and Mary is my favorite. It shows that hospitality is not all that it seems. Instinctively, I believe Martha was in the right. Do you know how annoyed I would be at Mary? Or how easily annoyed I get at the Marys in my life? I think to myself, “She should know better!” Other people would clearly argue that it is Mary who is in the right. Sitting at our Lord’s feet, soaking up every word He says.

It’s easy for us to identify as one or the other. However, I believe we are called to be both. Jesus said, “Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.” He does not condemn Martha or say her work has no purpose, but reminds her that what she’s doing is fleeting. Closeness with Christ is the most worthwhile.

However, the food still needs to be made, and the house still needs to be cleaned sometimes. In taking care of the necessary tasks, we are able to be fully present when the guests arrive. Isn’t that how we should live our lives? Always being in a prepared state so as to be hospitality to others? When my mind is in order, my priorities are straight, and my soul is in a state of grace, I am able to freely enter into someone else’s needs.

Our Church is also a mother, and we find the highest form of hospitality when She offers us the Mass. Think about it:

  • The space is properly prepared and adorned.

  • It is ready to welcome whoever shall enter.

  • Welcomed by the Word of God and taking our seat at the table that is prepared, we are then invited to share in the greatest meal.

  • This gives us a renewed sense of life, and we are then enabled to go out and share that life with others.

Our small attempts at being hospitable to others should reflect what we receive in the Mass. Everyone we encounter should leave us feeling welcomed and respected. They should feel fed. They should feel impacted by Christ’s love.

That’s hospitality.

Gratia PlenaSarah Rogers