Practicing God’s Hospitality
By: David Philippart
Practicing God’s Hospitality Last Sunday at the 5 p.m. Mass we celebrated a most radical incarnation of hospitality here at Old St. Patrick’s. Families who have grown by adoption—too many families for me to count—came together to give God thanks and praise for the mystery, the gift of God drawing them together into holy households, holy families. Think about it. Among us are couples who have reached beyond biology to welcome children born of other parents into their hearts, making them their own, creating a home. We blessed these families as we heard a gospel word about tasting heaven whenever the ordinary water of every day life is changed into wine by gracious welcome: On the third day, there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples were also welcomed to the wedding. (John 2:1)
It was easy and fitting (and fun) to celebrate adoption last Sunday because all of us are adopted by God. Orphans of Adam and Eve, castaways from the garden, we have been chosen by God, drawn together beyond biology in baptism and welcomed into this holy household named Old St. Patrick’s Church. God has made us God’s very own, and so, together with God, we create—and each Sunday create anew—a home. It’s a privileged home in a unique house. A home where there is a place at the table for each and room enough for all. A house where God chooses to live with us—to dwell and dawdle and hang around and always be with us. Us. Can you believe it? And yet today this good news is fulfilled in our hearing. It’s fulfilled in our hearing and in our speaking a word of welcome.
Because God loves us first, because God welcomes us first, because God adopts us first, we are free and able to love each other and all others. We are free to adopt each other as sisters and brothers, companions on the journey, literally “those who eat and drink together.” This is why we begin Mass by greeting and welcoming each other: Because God welcomed us first. We echo God’s welcome. We mirror God’s inclusion. We extend God’s embrace. We are—all of us— ministers of God’s hospitality.
Now, we are led in practicing God’s hospitality by members whom we call “hospitality ministers.” These 91 members are trained and scheduled to lead us. And we could use your help as a hospitality minister—especially at the 7 a.m., 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. Masses—even if just once a month! (E-mail me for more information: davidp@ oldstpats.org or speak to me after Mass.) But every time you come, as a member of Old St. Pat’s, you can exercise your share in the ministry of God’s hospitality. Three ideas:
- Extend God’s invitation to someone you know, especially if that someone is looking for a church to call home. Bring him or her with you next week.
- Take a seat up front—either on the main floor or in the balcony. It’s not a sin of pride! It frees up seats in the back for those who come later.
- Skootch in. Or watch for those who come later, and do what you can to welcome them into the empty seats in the middle of the pew.
These simple practices prepare us to work for a more welcoming world outside of the liturgy. In this Year of Mercy, they are dress rehearsals. One of the corporal works of mercy is “harboring the harbor-less,” welcoming the stranger, making room for the other. Can you believe it’s this simple? And holy! Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it. (Hebrews 13:1) Entertain an angel this week!
David Philippart is the liturgy director at Old St. Patrick’s Church.