Fall is naturally a time of new beginnings and excitement in many households as children return to school or begin school for the first time, young adults are off to college, and parishes launch their complete schedule of ministries. New beginnings and welcomes mark this time of the year, and at the heart of it all, there is hope for all the future holds. Words of welcome and welcome back echo through these days.
The disposition that sustains and supports our words and gestures of welcome is genuine hospitality, foundational not only to ministry in the Church, but also at the heart of the new evangelization. Pope Francis invites the Church to go deeper into the hospitality called for by the Scriptures in his spirituality of accompaniment. As sons and daughters, brothers and sisters of the Triune God, being Christian means that there is a commitment to walk with each other, made possible and sustained by the practice of hospitality. Throughout the Scriptures there are examples of and invitations to hospitality.
The Sacred Scriptures give exhortations to hospitality. For example, in 1 Peter 4:9 the author urges Christians to "be hospitable to one another without complaining." In Romans 12:13, St. Paul says, "contribute to the needs of the holy ones and exercise hospitality."
In Jesus' public ministry he gave and received hospitality, and through him God accompanies humanity. Jesus made the accompanying presence of God completely visible and tangible as he sat at table and broke bread, touched the broken and healed the sick. His accompaniment of humanity culminated in his complete offering of himself on the cross, that we might be saved. Jesus became one of us and walked the human journey with us. Through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, accompaniment takes the form of inspiration, light, clarity and sometimes the challenge to grow.
As Jesus shared in the life of the Trinity, so we are invited into that same life. The persons of the Trinity live in a relationship of gracious and dynamic hospitality toward one another. They perfectly accompany one another and are in a relationship of complete and loving communion. Our families, neighborhoods, parishes, schools and institutions are called are called to mirror the life of the Trinity and to experience loving communion with God and with one another.
As Christians, our experience of God, who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, is rooted in community, a network of loving and supportive relationships. A stance of hospitality begets kindness and engenders friendship. In the practice of genuine hospitality, we are drawn into friendship with one another and with God.
Hospitality is like a door that opens people to each other and to God's own life. It is the beginning of relationship, the heart of who we are and who we are becoming. Relationship is the beginning of accompaniment. The Spirit of God enfolds the Church, and through the warm and loving welcome of genuinely caring people, it can grow and be renewed as God's people are empowered to grow in faith and to share their gifts. The time to journey in love with others is now. Through the gift of hospitality let us awaken faith and accompany one another as we walk with Christ.