“I was a stranger and you welcomed me”
– Matthew 25:35
Hospitality is manifested in an open and welcoming spirit; a willingness to drop what we are doing and receive the other person when they need us. We are reminded of Abraham’s hospitality to the three strangers (Gen 18:1-10). In welcoming the strangers, he was welcoming God. And he received a reward from God for this hospitality. But we should not be motivated because of some reward, other than the good feeling that comes from making another feel welcomed. So if we wish to grow in hospitality, we would do well to emulate the example of Abraham.
We recall Jesus’ words: “what you do to the least of my brothers and sisters you do to me” (Mt 25:40). And then Christ gave us the exquisite example of hospitality at the last supper when he got down and washed the disciples’ feet (Jn 13:3-17). And he commanded us, who would claim to be his followers, to do likewise. If we really took this command seriously, we should be tripping over each other as we approached the strangers in our churches to make them feel welcomed.
St. Benedict wrote rules for living a Catholic life. These rules are still practiced by most monastic communities today. Rule #53 states, “All guests who present themselves are to be welcomed as Christ, for he himself will say: I was a stranger and you welcomed me,” (Mt 25:35).
When new people come into a church, most decide in the first five minutes if they will ever come back. For this reason alone, it is always important to be a welcoming parish.
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