Some dictionaries define the word hospitality as "the way we relate to pilgrims, persons in need and defenceless people, when we welcome them and provide them with the help they need, or, the cheerful welcome made to foreigners and visitors. However, we think that hospitality implies even more. It is a continuous action, which involves opening one’s heart, being ready to welcome the one who arrives, and also reaching out towards this person. We can visualise this by looking at Abraham when he received the visit of the three persons sent by Yahweh (Gen 18: 2-
To be ready to welcome others is an action that requires total availability: receiving the whole person with warm expressions and gestures of welcome; it is to open one’s mind and thoughts to enable the person to feel part of the household, part of the family and even of one’s own life. However, it is the heart which experiences this connectedness with one another.
In his theology of the heart, Saint John Eudes defines the heart as a place of shelter. That is why he praises Mary’s heart as "an expanding" dwelling for Jesus,
How do you welcome people? How do you express your welcome?
Do you allow yourself to welcome with the heart?
What does Abraham’s attitude evoke in you?
In the world, there are numerous testimonials of women and men who have had impressive experiences of hospitality and welcoming. You may have met one of them, or you may even have been one of these persons yourself.
In life, a pregnant woman is a beautiful example of" welcoming" in a spontaneous way. Generally, a pregnant woman experiences the beautiful stages of becoming a receptive and welcoming space; a dwelling where her child can grow. When the baby is welcomed, we can contemplate an expanding process for the integrity of the mother. Her heart and her thoughts, open up to new ways of being and of self-
Hospitality is at the heart of the Old and the New Testament. A great variety of texts reveal God’s hospitality. "Even the sparrow has found a home and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young" (Psalm 84: 3). All creation is the dwelling shaped by God the Creator; it is the house which welcomes us and where we can blossom to fullness of life.
Hospitality implies reciprocity and is characterized by a sincere mutual kindness. The most important aspect is to be together in freedom and in gratitude; to devote time to one other and even more, to commit oneself to friendly and generous actions. It includes the will to listen to the world’s needs, in order to live out of a preferential love for the poor and for migrants; to maintain an open attitude and to be attentive, humble, kind, and available to meet the other and allow the other meet with us.
In the Gospels, Jesus is identified both as host and guest. We recognize Jesus as one who is constantly creating a welcoming atmosphere: "Come to me, all you who labour and are burdened and I will give you rest" (Mt, 11: 28). The whole earth was the temple where he prayed to his Father and the temple is accessible to all. (Lk 6: 12). But at the same time, Jesus is a traveller and a pilgrim who depends on people’s hospitality: "the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head" (Mt 8: 20). He is invited to eat (Lk 7: 36), is welcomed in people’s houses (Lk 10: 38), and he also takes the risk not to be welcomed. (Mk 6: 1-
Through his preaching and his action, Jesus communicates to us the certainty that God will never abandon us. He will always give us shelter and protection. So Jesus is preparing a dwelling in the house of His Father for us, where there is shelter for all. As God is in all creation, so everything in the cosmos is God’s home and our home. This earth belongs to all; my space is also the space of the person who lives in it.
Being hospitable means being ready to open our hearts to visualize and include those who are far away, thus turning myself and the place where I am, into a space for all. If we recognize ourselves as being able to give and receive in the way God does, we strengthen our relationship with God, and our love for ourselves; our sense of being related with the entire Earth community grows.
What attracts our attention in the life of SME is her attentive attitude to everyone’s needs: Sisters, young people, neighbours, workers in the house, benefactors, charity workers, clergymen, foreigners… We will only quote one testimonial: "… God’s servant talked to me very Little of God. I will never stop talking about all the good she did for me; I loved her like a mother… She was very good to the workers and the poor. She was very fair and was generous when paying… She always made sure the people who worked for the house would be served something… She showed interest in my family, my children…
But she also allowed herself to be welcomed: "Mrs. Kinet is a treasure for us, she is the best of mothers, and she will also be a mother for the beautiful foundation in Brussels. There is no doubt but that this respectable mother needs to take care of this great work. We asked her to travel there and see everything herself…"
Read slowly the passage Ez 34: 11-
What can you do to weave relationships that are human and to say to the world that God is here and now listening to its cries?
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