The Sacrifice of Being Welcoming

This Sunday we celebrate the feast of the Baptism of the Lord.  The Gospel reading recounts Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist in the Jordan.  After Jesus comes up out of the water, heaven was opened and a voice came from heaven announcing, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”  (cf. Luke 3:21-22)  Notice that God the Father did not say, “you are my ONLY beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” 

 The truth is that, we are all beloved children of God and despite our imperfections, He is well pleased with us.  And although, we might in some sense know that is true, I think that much of the time we don’t really believe it.  When Bishop Gruss first came to our Diocese, he often shared how he had been told his whole life, “Jesus loves you” but that he didn’t really know what that meant.  It wasn’t until he was struggling as an adult that he began praying every day, “Jesus, if you are real and you do love me, show me that love in a real and concrete way today.”  He says that prayer changed his life.  In fact, that prayer is the reason we have him as our Shepherd in the Diocese of Rapid City.  Bishop Gruss knew that Jesus loved him; he hadn’t experienced that love.

 Bishop Gruss’ example teaches us about the importance of prayer.  He did not experience the love of God in his own life until he began praying in a very deliberate, consistent and intentional way.  Prayer is essential.  That is why it is a central element in our Stewardship initiative under the pillar of Lively Faith. 

 This experience of God’s love comes directly to us from Him in prayer.  However, it comes to us through the actions of others as well.  Many years ago, I read a book by Dr. Ross Campbell called, “How to Really Love Your Child.”  As a psychiatrist, he had worked with hundreds of families who were struggling.  He said that he had never met a parent who said they didn’t love their child, but that he had worked with hundreds of kids who didn’t think their parents loved them.  Clearly, there was a disconnect — parents who loved their children but weren’t able to convey that love in a way the child received it. 

I am convinced this doesn’t just happen in the parent-child relationship.  It happens in other relationships in our lives and it happens to us as church communities, when we desire to share the Love of Christ with others but that message is not given in a way that others receive or experience the tender love of Jesus.  I believe the Holy Spirit has given us the gift of our stewardship initiative to assist us in bridging this gap. 

The pillar of Generous Hospitality and the concrete examples of how this is done in the characteristics, as well as the witness of so many inside and outside of our Diocese of how hospitality is lived out in concrete, real actions provides us with real and practical help in this area. 

I continue to be challenged to grow in my own hospitality.  I recently read the beautiful new apostolic exhortation by Bishop Olmsted on the family (http://www.catholicsun.org/2018/12/30/complete-my-joy-in-major-new-document-bishop-olmsted-urges-fathers-mothers-to-commit-their-families-to-a-deeper-relationship-with-christ/).  In it, he shares this quote from St. Teresa of Calcutta:

“And so less and less we are in touch with each other.  The world is lost for want of sweetness and kindness.  People are starving for love because everybody is in such a great rush.”

 

 

Generous Hospitality requires an attentiveness to the other.  One of the biggest obstacles in my own life to this attentiveness is my tendency to rush through the day.  Slowing down requires a sacrifice on my part; to sacrifice my time and attention and give it to another.  It also requires a certain sensitivity to how others are experiencing life. 

This was brought to my attention yesterday when I witnessed a friend reach out to a visitor from Colombia.  He offered to take our visitor fishing or hunting and I think his offer came from a genuine desire to make this man feel welcome here and a willingness to sacrifice time to give that gift.  I thought to myself, it is pretty easy to wish this man Buenos Días and go on with my day.  Both my friend’s example and Mother Teresa are challenging me to a greater hospitality. 

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