Happy Birthday National Health Service!

I’m not sure that the National Health Service has a strapline, but if it did it might well be, ‘We Welcome Strangers’, because while we think of ourselves as ‘patients’ when we visit a ‘hospital’ the Latin word from which that word derives means ‘stranger.’

 

In a famous passage about sheep and goats in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus teaches his followers that they must practice hospitality saying, ‘I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a strangerand you invited me in.’

 

It was this command that inspired Christian monastic communities to offer care and hospitality to strangers who might knock at their door, most famously expounded in the Rule of St Benedict who declared that all such strangers should be received ‘as if they were Christ.’

 

Over the centuries that obligation to offer care and hospitality has passed in large degree from the church to the state, to the extent that few if any who enter a modern hospital realise that they are benefitting from the legacy of Christ’s teaching.

 

So as we pause to give thanks for the NHS on its 70thBirthday, let’s also give thanks to the One whose extraordinary love changed the world and made it all possible.

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