Thursday, February 28, 2013

X is for Xenia - A Hospitable Heart

From Wikipedia:

"Xenia (Greek: ξενία, xenía) is the Greek word for the concept of hospitality, or generosity and courtesy shown to those who are far from home."

This ancient word makes me think of the story Jesus told about Judgement Day. 

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 foundation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’  And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’  

"A stranger and you welcomed me."  As a Lenten reflection, I've been re-reading The Work of Mercy: Being the Heart and Hands of Christ by Mark Shea.  For Catholics (and other Christians), Lent is a time of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.  Yes, there's the obvious "feed the hungry" angle that almsgiving often implies, but this concept of welcoming the stranger is one that pulls me right now.  Shea titles the chapter on this particular Work as "Harbor the Harborless."  He speaks of not just the person who physically needs shelter, but the one who needs a haven for his spirit.   Most of us think of alms as food or coin given to the needy, but the alms a person needs may not be food for his belly, but for his heart.   I think it's easy to overlook the needy spirit.  I know I am guilty of this.  I can get so wrapped up in getting dinner on the table and nobody getting burnt that I'm annoyed by the hug someone is trying to give me.  I'm wrapped up in what I'm doing, and don't have the time to listen.  My heart is, at times,  inhospitable.

I'm a little behind in the idea of "taking on" for Lent,  but for the next 20-odd days, I'm really going to take on working to achieve the spirit of xenia.  I think the Greeks' definition meant people who are physically far from home, but here on earth, our spirits are far from our heavenly home, and need generosity and courtesy as well.   As Jesus says, to welcome the least is to welcome Him.  He never said, "I'm too tired," or "I'm busy."  He always welcomed the soul that needed love.  I never will be as perfect as He is, and there will be times I fall short.  But if He could suffer on the cross to open Heaven for me, surely I can do a better job keeping my heart open for Him.

X is a hard letter -- see what others are writing about!

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