In two passages of his Epistles St. Paul particularly stresses the way in which we should receive one another. In one (Hebrews ch. 13) he exhorts us to be generously and lovingly hospitable, for, as he says, in showing hospitality thereby some have entertained angels unawares; not in the sense that the heavenly hosts have visibly entered our houses, but often in the guise of a modest, unobtrusive stranger, a messenger of God has knocked at our door. Someone who is an icon of the suffering Christ, an image of the Saviour has stood at our door knocking, praying that the door may be opened and that he, a homeless, lonely, deprived wanderer may be given shelter.
This door is not just the material door of our home, nor the protection of our actual roof; rather, the hidden doors of our hearts must open, and open wide, so that a person may penetrate to a depth where he will be met not only by our love, but by God’s love which flows in our hearts. We must open our locked minds in order to understand and accept a person. When we open our doors in this way we do indeed often receive angels, Christ’s messengers who bring us salvation from heaven, a call to mercy and compassion and love, a call — as St. Paul says — to be able to “rejoice with them that do rejoice and weep with them that weep.” (Romans, 12, 15).
St. Paul also says (Romans, 15, 7) that we should receive one another as Christ received us, and in another passage again he marvels at God’s love for us, at the love He showed us through Christ; for who, he asks, in the ordinary way would lay down his life for a friend? But Christ came to give His life for us while we were still at enmity with God. He came to die for His enemies and God’s, so that seeing the sacrificial love of the cross people’s hearts might be moved and open in response to that love (Romans, 5, 6-9). Is that how we receive each other? Countless people pass through our lives; they are neither friends nor foes, they pass unnoticed, they are not even forgotten, they are never seen. A man passes by us, hoping for a meeting, and he meets no one; someone passed by him, an unseeing eye fell upon him, his voice remained unheard, and then perhaps he went off into the darkness, into loneliness and despair.
Christ does not pass us by like that, He does not cast an unseeing look at us nor close His ears His gaze rests upon each one of us, penetrates to the depths of our hearts, and meets each one at the level where sorrow has settled, or eternal joy has sprung. Let us learn to meet one another as Christ would meet us in this church, at home, in life generally, with a seeing eye, an alert ear, with a wide open heart, an attentive mind and the will and a lively desire to receive others, to console them, to make them happy, to include them and bring them into the Kingdom of God. We shall not need to say much about the Kingdom, because then whoever comes to us, whoever meets us separately or collectively, will know what the Kingdom is where God lives and love is supreme.