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Monday, November 23, 2015

The Need for Hospitality -  According to Pope Francis 

The World Meeting of the Families (WMOF) renewed my energy, enthusiasm and love for the Church. But it also exposed a weakness that many Catholics share with the rest of humanity. This being the lack of hospitality toward those who remain disenfranchised, marginalized, or poor. Why do I say this? 
All week Pope Francis talked about the importance of loving others, being charitable toward people we work with or have disagreements with, etc. He talked a lot about religious freedom and the importance of opening doors for immigrants seeking a better place to live. And he even proved that he walks the talk as he served in the soup kitchen in DC. He proved it again as he caressed the disabled person in the wheel chair. He emulated it as he endured hour after hour of what seemed like gobbly-gook/political speak from those in power. He said it well as he thanked those people who remain out of sight of such a great event - from the janitors to the cooks and dishwashers. 
Even though we agree with the words, do we really listen? Do we really put his words into practice?
To many people, Pope Francis is a pope of the downtrodden, the hopeless, the helpless. Some presume his theology of love is much different from that expressed in the Catholic Catechism. But that presumption is off the mark. Pope Francis is opening up the Catechism for us; he is interpreting it for us as we fail to grasp its finer points. He is showing us how to put it to work in everyday lives. For example, did you know that even the Catholic Catechism mentions the importance of hospitality? It states:“To the Lord’s Sermon on the Mount it is fitting to add the moral catechesis of the apostolic teachings. This doctrine hands on the Lord’s teaching with the authority of the apostles particularly in the presentation of the virtues that flow from faith in Christ and are animated by charity, the principal gift of the Spirit. Let charity be genuine… Love one another with brotherly affection Rejoice in your hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints, practice hospitality.” [CCC 1971] This Catechism passage references Romans 12:9-13 which teaches us to love, abhor evil, hold onto good, give honor, and show hospitality. 
What is hospitality? It must be pretty important as it is mentioned in both the Bible and the Catechism! Hospitality is traditionally defined as the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers. But it has to be more than that to be talked about in the Bible. Hospitality is measured by the degree of kindness we show others, including strangers. It is our treatment of them. It is the welcome we give to someone’s presence and/or approach - even if it makes us uncomfortable. It is our willingness to listen to others’ stories about their life, hardships and issues. It is our willingness to refrain from dismissing them for any reason even when their clothes or attitudes hint at addictions or problems. Hospitality was modeled for us by the Good Samaritan who went out of his way to help the wounded man even though it was socially inappropriate to do so. 
Let me conclude with a real story from the WMOF that drives home how Catholics lack hospitality - consciously and unconsciously.
My husband, Dave, walked into the men’s room at the WMOF conference which was in the usual state of mess and disarray. {Women’s bathrooms were equally messy. Why can’t Catholics pick up or clean up after themselves?] Dave encountered the janitor who was grumbling about the mess as he ‘cleaned’ it for probably the 10th time that day. As he grumbled, he murmured to those within hearing: ‘All these god-people and nobody looks me in the eye or talks to me.’ Obviously, he was unhappy with his state in life - but it is also obvious that few ’god-people’ tried to help him better appreciate his job or his state in life or be present to him as they dirtied up his domain without concern about him or the next person using the bathroom. Apparently, the janitor interpreted the general lack of hospitality as a sign that god-people put their faith in one bucket and their social behaviors and attitudes in another. It is the compartmentalization of faith and hospitality toward anyone rather than the integration of faith with hospitality towards all that is the problem. In my opinion, this is Pope Francis’ keynote message. 

It certainly is a tall order to be present to everyone around us! Yet, it remains God’s hearkening! We are each called to holiness as we strive to integrate our faith with hospitality toward all regardless of the fact that we are all BUSY! [Being Under Satan’s Yoke?] Or that we live in a fast paced, technologically driven, independent, and ‘indifferent towards strangers’ advanced society. 

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