The Least of Your Brothers
by Fr. Jack McArdle with Aneel Aranha
"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.' (Matthew 25:34-36)
Ruth went to her mail-box, and there was only one letter. She picked it up, and looked at it before opening it. Then she looked at the envelope again. There was no stamp, no post-mark, only her name and address. She read the letter.
I'm going to be in your neighbourhood Saturday afternoon, and I would like to visit.
Her hands were shaking as she placed the letter on the table. "Why would the Lord want to visit me? I'm nobody special. I don't have anything to offer." With that thought she remembered her empty kitchen cabinets. "Oh, my goodness, I really don't have anything to offer. I'll have to run down to the shop and buy something for dinner." She reached for her purse, and counted out the contents. Four pounds and fifty pence. "Well I can get some bread and cold cuts, at least." She threw on her coat, and headed out the door.
A loaf of bread, a few slices of turkey, and a carton of milk; leaving Ruth with the grand total of sixty pence to last her till Monday. Nonetheless, she felt good as she headed home, her meagre offerings tucked under her arm.
"Hey, lady, can you help us, lady?" Ruth had been so absorbed in planning the meal that she had not noticed two huddled figures in the alleyway; a man and a woman, both of them dressed in rags. "Look lady, I have no job, and we're both living out here on the street, and it's getting cold, and we're really hungry. If you could help us, lady, we would appreciate it."
Ruth looked at them both. They were dirty, they smelled bad, and she was sure they could get some kind of work, if they really tried. "Sir, I'd like to help you, but I'm a poor woman myself. All I have is a few cold cuts and some bread, and I'm having an important guest for dinner tonight, and I was planning on serving that to him." "OK, lady, I understand. Thanks, anyhow." The man put his arm around the woman's shoulder, turned, and headed back into the alley. As she watched them leave, Ruth felt a familiar twinge in her heart. "Sir, wait!" The couple stopped and turned, as she ran down the alley towards them. "Look, why don't you take this food. I'll figure out something else to serve my guest." She handed the man her grocery bag. "Thank you, lady. Thank you very much." "Yes, thank you". It was the man's wife, and Ruth could see now that she was shivering. "You know, I've got another coat at home. Here, why don't you take this one." Ruth unbuttoned her jacket, and slipped it over the woman's shoulders. Then, smiling, she turned and walked back to the street; without her coat, and nothing to serve her guest. "Thank you, lady. Thank you very much."
Ruth was chilled before she reached her front door, and she was also worried. The Lord was coming to visit, and she had nothing to offer him. She fumbled through her purse for her keys, and, as she did so, she noticed another letter in the mail-box. "That's odd. The mailman doesn't usually come twice in one day." She took the letter out of the box, and opened it.
It was so good to see you again. Thank you for the lovely meal. And, thank you, too, for the lovely coat.
Hospitality is very much part of Christian living. Jesus tells us 'what you do to others, I will take as having been done for me'. We extend hospitality to Jesus every time we welcome another into our homes. I may not have much to give by way of food or drink, but the quality of the hospitality is not measured by the amount of what is given.
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