Hospitality: All Are Welcome – Raised Catholic episode 51

The following is a transcript of the Raised Catholic podcast episode. To listen to the podcast, click here.

Today is episode 51: Hospitality: All Are Welcome

Well, hello friends. As we move through this season of Advent, we’ve covered some Advent basics, and then last week we focused on what it means for us to give as people of faith. Well, today we’ll continue with seasonal topics as we chat a bit about hospitality. It’s the time of year for gathering, and though things look very different than they did at this time last year or, let’s be honest, the year before that, any time is a good time to think about the how, where, when and why we host, gather, and welcome, particularly as people of faith. 

Maybe the ongoing pandemic has caused you to keep your get-togethers small for the well-being of others or maybe fatigue with all of it has you opening your doors wide.  Maybe you’ve never really felt comfortable hosting anything and you tend toward being an invitee rather than an inviter. Whether you love cooking and hosting, or really do not love those things, there are creative ways for everyone to have and share a hospitable heart and the truth is that as Christians, and as the Church, that really is what we are called to, so, how are we doing, do you think?  If hospitality is about making space and caring for our fellow humans, would the people around you describe you as hospitable?  And what would they say about our Church?

We all know the story of Mary and Joseph when they travelled to Bethlehem and could not find a room, leading Mary to give birth to Jesus among the animals and laying him in a manger. What a total hospitality fail, right? But there are tons of other references and teachings about welcome that we do find in the Bible. In Luke Chapter 14, we find Jesus telling the disciples not to invite friends, family, or wealthy neighbors over for a meal, as the gesture might be repaid, but rather, the poor, lame, blind and crippled, or those who cannot repay our kindness. In Leviticus, we’re told to treat foreigners residing among us as native-born, loving them as we love ourselves, remembering the time that we too were foreign (now friends, in some way, this really does refer to all of us). In Acts, we read that the jailer of Paul and Silas was converted by their testimony. The man brought them into his home, caring for their wounds and providing them a meal and before long, his whole household came to believe in God. It’s amazing what time and a shared meal can do, right? In the Good Samaritan story, we hear about what it means to be a neighbor – one who shows mercy, who tends to physical needs, and one who provides care even to someone who lives and believes differently than we do. Hmmm. In Hebrews, we’re taught to offer hospitality to strangers, as some entertain angels without even knowing it.  But maybe the biggest teaching on hospitality comes from the Sermon on the Mount. In Matthew, Jesus says that at the end of time, everyone will be gathered and then separated as sheep are separated from goats.  The deciding criteria on that separation will be in how we welcomed, fed, visited, and cared for the needs of our brothers and sisters, because everything we do or don’t do for another will be as if it were done or not done for God. Wow.

And this is not to put pressure on us, friends, but just to remind us of the very high priority that God puts on our helpful interaction with and proactive care of our fellow people.  Religious orders like the Benedictines know this reality well, opening their doors wide to others in what they call active hospitality and your grandmother might have lived this out too, when she stretched a meal out and added chairs, always welcoming guests to her dinner table.  When it comes down to it, it is about the disposition of our hearts that does affect our will. If our hearts are welcoming, so too will our action be.

And all of this leads me to kind of a heavy question today, friends.  As we think about hospitality and the importance that God places on it, would we say that our Church is herself, hospitable? Is Church an open and welcoming place for people to feel cared for and loved? It’s a hard question.  Many individual Christians, and parishes and communities, approach welcome and care as a high priority, but if we’re honest, we would have to say that some just do not, especially when we listen to some of the louder messages we’re hearing from some leaders in the American Church and in a large chunk of Catholic media.  Not sure that’s so? Ask a friend in the LBGTQ community whether they feel welcome at Church.  Ask a friend of color, or a friend who was not born in this country, or a friend who’s been divorced.  Look at a parish’s outreach to the poor in their neighborhood and around the world. Heck, ask someone whose politics or social views disagree with their priest or pastor whether they are received into a community in the same way as someone whose politics are aligned with the leadership. See what they say.  Because a Christian church mission statement that prioritizes welcome means nothing if it’s not welcome for everyone.

I don’t know. More and more, I’m hearing about disaffected Catholics and Christians from the wider Church who are wandering these days, not finding a place of home in the religious communities or traditions in which they were raised. There are a whole lot of roaming Catholics out here, and I get it and I resonate deeply with the wilderness that so many are experiencing these days.  Possibly, that’s why you’re here listening today in the Raised Catholic community and if you are a “roaming” Catholic, please know that you are so very welcome here, my friend.  

I wonder if you’ve heard about the Synod on Synodality, a worldwide effort from Pope Francis designed to hear from the faithful in every corner of the Church, whether they currently are part of a parish or not. It’s a beautiful outreach whose goal is listening and what could be more hospitable than that? The Synod seems to be having a hard time breaking through in many parts of the American Church so far, and if that continues, it really is to our detriment. When we don’t offer a place of welcome to the hurts and needs of others, or when we listen to debate and not to understand, we can quickly find ourselves in camps, losing the sense of diverse community that really is the very foundation of the Church and which is essential to a life of faith. When we welcome in those who look like us, think like us, live like us, but close our doors to the rest either by attitude or by dictum, it is violence to the Body of Christ.  And practically speaking, this is just not sustainable anyway, and we can see the toll that our closed hearts are having on families, the Church, the country, and the wider world. 

So how do we address this real problem of a lack of hospitality and welcome? There’s no cookie swap or parish event that’s going to solve it, but when individual people of faith take on a new receptivity, a hospitality of the heart, that’s when change can begin to happen.  So, maybe this week we can start small.  Maybe we can invite someone to connect in some small way, maybe someone different from us.  Maybe we can host something according to our talent, a meal or a simple meet-up over coffee or the beautiful connection which is made while working charitably toward a shared goal together.  Maybe think of the person who may not always be invited and include them.  I know I tend to be an invit-er and sometimes am a little bit bummed when others don’t reach out to me as much – every person has a story, friends. There are creative ways for each of us to orient our hearts in a more hospitable way, bearing grace to one another at this time of year.  It just may be that you’re thinking of some small way that you can do that right at this very moment, and if so, I hope you’ll follow up on that prompting of the Spirit, because making room for God to move in and through you – well, that’s the highest form of hospitality there is.  Make room for Jesus and He will make room in your heart for others.  It’s kind of His thing.

Well, thanks so much for listening today, friends.  If you need me, you can find me on Instagram @kerrycampbellwrites, or on my blog at mylittleepiphanies.com.  I’ll have lots of resources in the show notes for you to explore this topic in a deeper way on your own, so do check those out, but for now, let’s pray together.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, amen.

God, we thank you for where you’ve planted us.  Help us to see how we can open our hearts and lives to others in this lonely world in a way that is life-giving for us all.  And let our Church truly become the place of humble welcome for all souls that You created her to be, because when that day comes, and we really see each other as the family we are, gosh, there’ll never be enough chairs. 

Thanks so much for listening, friend, and I’ll see you next time.

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