By Fr Don Chambers
The Archdiocese of Port of Spain recently embarked on a fresh pastoral approach that emphasises three aspects of the Eucharistic celebration, Hospitality, Homilies and Hymns, as a way of renewing parish life. I reflect with you on the meaning of hospitality.
The word ‘hospitable’ originates from the Latin word, hospitabilis which means to lodge, to reside, to give lodging to, or to house. The first part of the word hospit- means guests, and the second part –abilis means capable of acting. Hence, hospitable means the ability to give lodging to guests.
As Christians, we believe and profess in the incarnation, that is, God taking on human nature and human condition (living in space and time). When John 1:14 tells us that the “Word became flesh”, the writer professes that God now dwells or lodges in human nature and human space in the person of Jesus Christ.
God’s choice to lodge in human nature and condition, therefore, affirms and validates that human nature is intrinsically hospitable, that is, capable of providing hospitality to the Divine.
In His ministry, Jesus demonstrated hospitality especially to the weak and vulnerable, that is, He creates a lodgement in Himself for us—a space where we feel a sense of belonging and unconditionally loved.
In the narrative of the raising of the widow’s son (Lk 7:11–17), we witness the major consequence of Jesus’ ministry of hospitality, that is, liberation.
In a patriarchal society where males were the primary breadwinner of the family, this widow loses her only source of support with the death of her son. Jesus takes the risk to bypass or ignore the laws of ritual impurity that prohibits the touching of a corpse (Num 19: 11, 16), raises her son from the dead, and returns him to his mother.
The irony in the narrative is that her life is not reflective of the meaning of the name of the town Nain which means beautiful. By touching the corpse to raise up her son and return him to his mother, Jesus’ compassion and mercy was an open sign that says, “You are welcome to come in”.
If the Church continues the mission of Jesus, then the Church must live a spirituality of hospitality that translates into a Ministry of hospitality. This spirituality of hospitality is the root from which the Church’s Ministry of governance, sanctification and teaching receives its spiritual nourishment.
Therefore, when Pope Francis exhorts the Church to become like a field hospital, it’s an invitation to provide lodgement for the weak and vulnerable.