Vicar’s Message

Vicar’s Message

Rev. Shiby Varughese P.

Dearly beloved in Christ,

The words of Jesus in St. Matthew 25:35, “I was a stranger and you welcomed me”—and the example of unlimited self-giving in the incarnation and crucifixion establish hospitality as both important and radical within the life of a Christian.

We are happy and excited to count ourselves as guest not as host. Speaking of hope and hospitality is a demand in the culture of hostility and hegemony. Every day we listen to harmful stereotypes, prejudices, resentment, and hatred stories and conversation; unknowingly we are victimized or traded by hate and hostility. “Don’t talk to strangers!” we are told from the time we are big enough to walk to the park, shopping malls, or the swimming pool by ourselves.

Human lives have to be built and bind by stories of love, compassion and hope, not by arguments. Hospitality—a word that translates the term philoxenia, “love of the stranger,” indicates that hospitality was not simply a matter of entertaining friends and relatives but rather extended to unknown persons, whether potential friends or enemies. It can help to mitigate a culture of suspicion, isolation, and possessive individualism by opening a space to those who are different or unfamiliar. The practice of hospitality creates spaces for listening and dialogue with such others, and it is an essential element in the formation and flourishing of communities.

Throughout Bible we can identify the practice of hospitality to the vulnerable as an important moral duty. Abraham’s welcoming the strangers at Mamre (Gen 18:1-15) or Rahab’s hospitality to the spies at Jericho (Josh 2) In passages such as Luke 14:13-14, Jesus instructs his listeners: “When you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” In his actions as well, Jesus extends welcome and fellowship to powerless social outsiders, such as those suffering from illness or disability. We are called to do the heart of Jesus’ mission on earth as proclaiming the kingdom of God through challenging exclusionism and reaching out to those on the margins.

God is ultimately host, guest, and home, and human practices and reflection on hospitality must begin from an understanding—or better, an experience—of God’s hospitality. Hospitality is a cardinal social virtue, a quality that distinguishes civilized peoples from barbarians and “one of the pillars of morality upon which the universe stands”. Hospitality creates a tension between openness and boundaries. Jewish Philosopher Emmanuel Levinas writes hospitality is so radical that a person must be willing to become not only host but “hostage” of the other. Hospitality is distorted “when it is practiced as a way of caring for so-called ‘inferior people’ by those who are more advantaged and able to prove their superiority by being ‘generous,’ rather than using a model of partnership.”

Respecting identities is therefore important to hospitality, even as identity must be informed by openness to difference and indeterminacy. For Christians, both their positive identity and their difference from the broader society must be shaped by their communities’ “three-dimensional” hospitality—to God, to differences within the community, and to other people outside its boundaries—if such communities are to become places of hospitality. The practice of hospitality—and the process of becoming hospitable —are not only serious and rewarding but also challenging because many times it demands the transformation of the both the “host” and the guest. Yes, we are committed to transform our parish into a community of hope and hospitality.

May the Good Lord be with you all as we journey forward and empower us for His mission,

Wish blessings of God with prayers,
Shiby Achen