At one point in my life, I was in the Middle East with a study group, and we visited a Bedouin encampment in the sand desert. We got to see a hospitality tent — a very wide tent with its flaps pinned open, with cushions spread on rugs inside, waiting for visitors. Apparently it is a very old Bedouin practice to have a hospitality tent so that visitors, so rare in the vast desert, can be given a royal welcome. One Scripture scholar suggests that visitors could be either friends or threats, while for travelers, encountering an unknown someone in the desert also was threatening. So when hosts acted as welcomers, and visitors as guests, fears and threats were neutralized. In our Hebrew Scripture reading this coming Sunday, Abraham sits in the entrance of his hospitality tent, welcomes three mysterious visitors, and serves them a meal. In the Gospel, Martha and Mary welcome Jesus to their home and serve him a meal. The theme of welcoming at meals (or failing to do that) is characteristic of Luke’s Gospel, and after Vatican II, being welcoming became a motif for Catholics — think of the oft-sung hymn “All are Welcome.”
Welcoming does not always mean serving a meal, of course. I think other welcoming actions are very needed in our culture today. For example, putting away that cell phone or audio device or turning off the TV to listen and talk to someone; letting oneself be interrupted in a task in order to chat or meet a need; visiting someone we might know who is alone or lonely; warmly embracing a new member of our circle or club or other group to which we belong; asking someone you don’t know or perhaps don’t much like to join you for lunch at work…. All these are small ways that we express welcoming as we look forward to being welcomed ourselves by the Lord to the banquet table of his Kingdom.
— Blog entry by Sister Mary Garascia