Humility is essential for there to be true hospitality. In order to truly welcome another one must know and accept the truth of oneself and not live with an overinflated sense of one’s ego. In other words, the more we grow in humility the better we become at welcoming the other.
This, I believe, is one of the lessons given us in the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector (Lk. 18:9-14). Both men go to the Temple to pray but only one leaves being “set right with God”. Only the tax collector is able to receive God, to welcome God into his heart. What allowed him to do this was his humility. The tax collector knew the truth of his sin. He knew his condition before the throne of God. Not even daring to lift his eyes to heaven, the tax collector beat his breast saying, “O God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” In his humility, this man opened his heart to God. He allowed a space for God to come in. In a combination of hospitality and humility the tax collector welcomed God and by so doing was “set right with God”.
The Pharisee could not do this. Whatever the reason – whether it be arrogance, pride or fear or a combination of all three – the Pharisee could not admit the truth of his need and therefore his heart remained closed. The Pharisee, so proud of his religious observance, allows no space for God to enter. He leaves neither knowing God nor even his very self, for that matter.
Humility allows for hospitality. Humility enables us to open the space in our hearts needed in order to welcome the other, whether that be God or our neighbor.
It is a good thing to learn the wisdom of the tax collector.