As a young girl in elementary school, I attended a moderately small school—about sixty students in a grade level split into two classrooms. Each year, with the coming of a new grade, the class of students would get mixed up, and I’d usually have to make new friends. For some reason, I always gravitated toward meeting the students completely new to the school. At some point all of us have felt left out in one way or another, and I always wanted to make sure these new students didn’t feel ignored or out of place.
This prompting to want others to feel included and like they belong has always stuck with me. I felt this most especially when I began to open my first house to a small women’s group gathering about once a week. At first, I was nervous to open my home to people I didn’t know or didn’t know well. But after my first few hosting opportunities, I found it to be something I enjoyed tremendously. I began to seek out additional chances for hosting themed activities, such as a Lenten soup and salad potluck or what has now turned into an annual cookie party tradition during Advent. And the best part: making new and lifelong friends.
During the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, I moved to a new city. That meant a new home, new neighborhood, new church, new friends, etc. Years of isolation during the pandemic has made it difficult to meet people when you start over after a move. Last year, I decided to try something new—hosting a “Blessed Brunch” for local Catholic women at my new home. I hardly knew most of the women who attended the brunch, but I’ve walked away from that event with wonderful new friends and connections at local parishes.
A month later, one of the women from the Blessed Brunch invited me to a small women’s group. This group has been a wonderful source of comfort and friendship to me over the last year. We each take turns hosting the monthly gathering, inviting others we know who may be interested in joining us. A woman from this group always asks if she can invite a friend in need of community whenever we host additional gatherings outside of the small group. I find this to be a very touching gesture and one that encourages me to think of additional people in need of community around me.
I love this about hospitality: in the action of making our homes—and hearts—open to others through hospitality, we become more selfless by making room for and serving others. By being welcoming, we share what we have, whether that be food, time, or a willingness to listen and comfort. These small actions reflect God’s love for us.
Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan is a classic example of how one man made himself vulnerable and available to the needs of another—an act of both generosity and hospitality. In contrast, when we serve out of a feeling of obligation, the joyfulness and warmth of giving in that hospitality is lacking. During Jesus’ public ministry, he and his disciples relied on the hospitality of others as they ministered to others. “Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give,” Jesus said (Mt 10:9-11).
The early Christians relied heavily on the hospitality of other Christians who might have been strangers. As Acts 2:44-47 describes, “All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their property and possessions and divide them among all according to each one’s need. Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple area and to breaking bread in their homes. They ate their meals with exultation and sincerity of heart, praising God and enjoying favor with all people. And every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.”
As we listen to the invitations and promptings of the Holy Spirit this Lent, let us discern how we can invite Christ and others in our community into our hearts. Perhaps he is calling us to host a Lenten Bible Study small group or a Friday night soup, salad, and Stations of the Cross potluck. Maybe there is an opportunity for you to invite a catechumen or someone new to you or your church to attend an event together during the Lenten season. In the serving of others, we serve Christ himself. How might you be called to extend hospitality to others this Lent?