Have you ever entered a home and felt the tension in the home? Perhaps the husband yells and belittles the wife and children in front of the guests, or the wife does the same thing. Or perhaps the children talk back to the parents in front of guests. Perhaps foul language is used in this home. The residents may openly criticize one another to try to make the other family members appear stupid in front of the guests.
Everyone feels uncomfortable. It is obvious that this is not a place of peace. Anger and resentment live openly in this home. This home is not a source of peace. Hospitality is very difficult in a home that lacks peace. No one is comfortable.
Perhaps every family experiences the lack of peace in their home at different times.
My children taught me how to bring peace into the home. (You recall that I am a widower with six children). One day I heard our teenagers enter the house cursing and yelling at one another, slamming doors and generally disturbing the peace of our home with anger, shouting and foul language.
I decided to do something about it and called them into the living room. With them sitting on the couch, I began to lecture them about such rough behavior. They responded seemingly offended. One of them spoke up, “Time out, Dad. We’ve heard you do much worse. We hear you cursing all the time.”
They were right. I was out of order. I was not being a good example. I realized what I hypocrite I was on this topic.
I spent some time reflecting upon the awkwardness of my words and actions with my children. Several days later, I called them back into the living room. I said to them, “I want to apologize for my error in trying to lecture you on cursing and bad behavior. You were correct. But, let’s talk about this again.”
As I explained to them, we all want to live in a peaceful home. When we are away from home, out in the world, home should be a place that we yearn to return to because we know it is one place of peace where we will be safe. We want our home to be a comfortable nest. But, it takes work.
I explained to them that I didn’t want to, and couldn’t police them out in the street, out in the world, outside of the home.
I asked them to enter into a pact with me to help protect our home from all kinds of abuse. I said, “You see that front door? The world lives outside that door. We live inside. There is all kind of “street behavior” outside that door, including cursing, violence, and all kinds of abuse. So, let’s make a pact that we will not bring that abuse and that language and that behavior inside the front door of our home. What do you say?”
To my surprise the kids immediately responded, “OK, Dad. Anything else?”
That was it. It was almost too easy.
In the coming weeks and months we weren’t perfect in our compliance with our pact, but all of us did change. We all made the effort. The bad words and outbursts of anger and abuse greatly reduced. Our home became more peaceful.
One sign of that peace was that more people began to show up at our house as if they wanted to be there. More friends of our children wanted to sleep over at our house. And our behavior grew into new habits, and followed me, for example, into my life outside the home. We had learned together a lesson of peace. After a while we rarely heard any cursing in the house. The pact worked.
Hospitality cannot exist in a home without peace in that home.
A couple of weeks ago we heard Jesus tell his disciples,
Into whatever house you enter, first say,
‘Peace to this household.’
If a peaceful person lives there,
your peace will rest on him;
but if not, it will return to you.
Today we hear of Abraham’s hospitality and how he invited God’s messengers into his home. They responded by promising Abraham and Sarah a child, even though they were childless and well past child-bearing age.
In today’s Gospel, we hear of Martha who invited Jesus into her home. Martha was full of anxiety,
“burdened with much serving.”
Martha’s sister, Mary, found peace at the feet of Jesus, listening to his words. Martha asked Jesus to give orders to her sister, Mary, to help her. However, Jesus was not going to take the peace from Mary.
Jesus responded to Martha,
“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things.
There is need of only one thing.
Mary has chosen the better part
and it will not be taken from her.”
Martha created turmoil. Mary found peace with Jesus.