Every so often it is good to reflect upon things that should be a regular and constant part of Christian life. One of them is the quality of the welcome which we give to others. As a friend was only saying last week, her generation had manners drilled into them, and her grandchildren are barely acquainted with them. If we wish to grow in our capacity to love, and thus please God, we really need to work on our ability to welcome.
It is actually quite amazing how often the Scriptures speak of welcome, so it is something we should work on improving :
‘Who ever welcomes you welcomes Me’, Matthew 10:40
‘Make hospitality your special care’, Roman 12:13
‘Some people have welcomed angels as guests’, Hebrews 13:2
In the Annunciation Our Lady welcomed the message of God and His angelic messenger, and the Incarnation of Jesus was the result.
In the Visitation, the Holy Spirit comes down powerfully upon Elizabeth and John the Baptist, her unborn child, as Mary greets her, and as Elizabeth welcomes Mary.
You would think that in our day and age, when connecting with another person at the same time and place is becoming rarer, that we would treat such encounters with more attention and reverence. In a face to face meeting we have the opportunity to affirm the worth and dignity of the other, and when we fail to do so we do ourselves harm and we do our visitors harm.
St Benedict in drawing up his monastic Rule wanted to make sure that the Benedictines took hospitality seriously, wanting to inspire everyone to welcome each guest as though they were welcoming Jesus Christ Himself. The way we welcome others is an excellent litmus test of how well and how deeply we welcome God into our lives.
Which one would make you feel more like a valued child of God ?
Waiting in the driveway, or out the front of your house, for them to appear. Greeting with a big hug. Leading them inside. Asking about their journey. Inviting them to sit. Having the jug boiled and home made goodies to go with the hot cup of tea. Keeping the conversation weighted on topics of interest to the guest.
Let someone else answer the door. Appear later and don’t acknowledge the guests by name. Don’t offer refreshments of any kind. Make no effort to show appreciation for the distance the guest has come. Largely go about life as though the guest wasn’t even there. Stare into space. Don’t make a fuss at all of the guest, and don’t even call the children in to greet and spend time with the rare visitor.
That is why in a little book I read many years ago, a man credited his conversion not only to the preaching of the husband but also to the tea and sympathy of the wife. Indeed the author said the wife actually aided his conversion more.
It makes sense that if we wish to be welcomed into the society of saints in heaven, we should not overlook the importance of welcome.