The Heart of Hospitality
This past year I have been preparing 2nd and 3rd graders for their First Communion. A conversation we continue to discuss throughout the year is how we can prepare to receive Jesus. One way we talk about that is to think of Jesus as a special guest we are inviting into our home. I ask the students the question “How do you prepare to have a special guest over at your house?”
Some of the responses include:
“You vacuum the house!”
“Clean my room”
“Have special yummy food”
“Get them a comfortable place to sit”
We then go on to discuss that Jesus is a special guest that we receive into the home of our heart. When we receive Jesus in the Eucharist we want to prepare our souls through prayer and reconciliation. This theme of receiving, preparing and inviting is not only something we do spiritually but also in action with those around us. It is most commonly known as hospitality.
As I continued to have these conversations with my students, I began to reflect on how I was practicing hospitality in my own life. I had been receiving Jesus into the home of my heart but how was I receiving people into our community and home at Lisieux?
Now don’t get me wrong, I love attending a good party. But hosting a party? Ooof! Sounds like a whole lot of planning, social energy and stress. Despite my fear of hosting, I decided to take my shot at it. I recognized the gift of living at a place like the Lisieux House where we have ample space to build community.
Let me just say now I definitely did not just dip my toes into practicing hospitality but took a cannonball jump into it. I decided I wanted to host a bonfire at the house. Sounds simple enough right? The one thing I did not factor in until later was how many people I wanted to invite. One of my favorite things is to build community and connect people. Inviting 15 people easily became 30 which quickly became 40. Of course there are always some people that were busy and couldn’t make it but it was still a sizable group.
Preparing for the big event I was a little nervous but mostly excited. Shortly before, I went to the chapel to pray. In my prayer I surrendered the evening to God asking Him to be the true hosts of the evening. Hosting this party was not for my own glory or being known as a great hostess. Nor was it for filling my own social cup. It was for the Lord to do His work. This meant inviting the Lord into my social gatherings. It is like sending Jesus an invite but instead of a physical invitation it was a spiritual one. So that He may come and do His work. That whoever is meant to meet or whoever needs community feels seen and taken care of. I prayed that His will may be done. It is not my party but His. It is creating a space for God to fulfill His plans, carrying out his work and spirit among us.
Throughout the night I spent most of my time greeting people. I didn’t really get a chance to have long conversations with others because I was greeting and tending to the needs of others. Despite not being able to be involved in all conversations, I found great joy in connecting people and caring for others. As Jesus served people, we are also called to serve others in the same way. True joy can be found in giving of ourselves in hospitality. As each person arrived it was a wonderful moment of embracing them, welcoming them and rejoicing in their presence. It really felt like a sight of heaven to look at the joy of people talking and laughing together.
While I definitely took a big leap into hosting, it does not always have to be an elaborate or even a planned event. Just a few weeks ago a friend randomly showed up at the house. I happen to be meal prepping for the week. As I saw them approaching my first thought was to clean up my food. Instead, I opened the door and offered them dinner. The friend accepted and described it as exactly what they needed. They had back to back events and were unsure of when they would have time to eat dinner. I had no idea this small act of generosity would be exactly what they needed.
Hospitality starts in our hearts by inviting the Lord in and preparing to receive Him. But even if we do not have time to prepare, we can still choose to be hospitable the moment someone arrives. The Lord is so merciful that he will make us great hosts even in the messiest of times. Whether it is a simple dinner or a large gathering, it all starts with opening the door.