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Hospitality: Welcoming Our Lord and Others

Throughout the Synodal process, we heard of the concerns for the well-being and healthy growth of our parish communities. This leads us into the overarching theme of hospitality. In St. Matthew’s account of the birth of Jesus, which we will read on Christmas Day this year, we read that St. Joseph, encouraged by the words of an angel, was not afraid to take Mary and her unborn baby into his home. He welcomed her when he could have rejected her. He welcomed the baby when he could have chosen not to get involved. This hospitality is instructive to us. Welcoming others and seeing to their needs is part of who we are as those who have been welcomed by God.

God has welcomed us. When we were far from Him, when we were lost in sin, when we did not know where to turn, God has welcomed us. When we were Baptized, when we were Confirmed, when we received First Reconciliation and First Holy Communion, God has welcomed us into ever deeper relationship with Him. Every time we turn back to Him in repentance and every time we turn to Him for strength, God welcomes us. Jesus came to us to extend to us an offer of hospitality – to offer us friendship with Him, to offer us a place in His Kingdom, and to offer us a place with Him forever in heaven.

"Welcoming others and seeing to their needs is part of who we are as those who have been welcomed by God."

We, in our turn, must strive to be hospitable. We must strive to welcome others and to see to their needs. We long to be strengthened by Christ to be a people who welcome others into our homes, into our parishes, and into our ministries. When someone comes to visit our homes, we tidy up and do little things to set the atmosphere for the visit and to make our guests comfortable. These little gestures of love and welcome are a form of living the Little Way. They show that we care about our guest and we want our guest to be comfortable. As we do this in our homes, let us do this in our parishes. Let our parishes be places of hospitality, where our guests can experience that welcome from God that we have experienced, and let that happen through us.

In our parishes, this emphasis on an attitude of hospitality should begin with the pastor and move through the councils and ministries and involve all parishioners. Let none think of hospitality as someone else’s job. Instead, let each of us contribute as we are called. For pastors, councils, and staff, hospitality begins with a welcoming attitude in all of our work and is expressed in how we spend the money that has been entrusted to us and in how we administer the goods of the Church. For ministers, it is expressed in how we welcome others into ministry with us and in how our ministry is conducted with a welcoming attitude. For all parishioners, it is expressed in how we invite and welcome others into our celebration of the Eucharist and into our lives and the life of the parish. Is our money and time spent on welcoming others and widening the circle of those encountering the love and mercy of Jesus or on serving only a select few? Do we have greeters at Mass and information booths to help those unfamiliar with our parish or ministries? Are we making phone calls to check on those we have not seen for awhile or who are new to our parish? Do we greet one another, learn each other’s names, and offer to pray with one another? These kinds of attitudes, initiatives, and little acts of hospitality are skills that we need to develop as we move toward becoming more missionary in our discipleship.

"We long to be strengthened by Christ to be a people who welcome others into our homes, into our parishes, and into our ministries."

The foundation for our hospitality is always the hospitality we have received from God. As we move closer to Christmas, let us prepare our hearts to welcome Jesus at Christmas. Let this lead us to welcome Him every day as we await His coming in glory. During this time of Eucharistic Revival, let us also focus on welcoming Him in our Eucharistic celebration and in Holy Communion so that He can make us truly hospitable.

+Most Reverend Stephen J. Berg

Bishop of Pueblo

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