November 13, 2021
A Reflection from the Interpath Traditions
by Thomas P. Bonacci, C.P.
As the richness of the Holiday Season is fast upon us, we pause to consider the age-old virtue of hospitality. Hospitality has changed the course of human history many times over. Think of Abraham in Genesis 18: 2-11. He greeted three strangers, offering them bread, water, and shelter. Little did he know he was welcoming the Divine Presence into his tent. Humans have longed sensed the transforming power of hospitality. Lovers meet at a dinner in a friend’s house. International treaties are agreed upon at state dinners. Contracts are signed over lunch. Friends renew their friendships over coffee. The poor, marginalized, and rejected are respected, served, and blessed as the soup is poured and the bread shared. Hospitality is the virtue which transforms eating and drinking into a feast of friendship and love.
My Grandma was a master of hospitality. She had that wonderful habit of always setting an extra plate at the table if a guest unexpectedly arrived. She always seemed to be disappointed if the extra chair was empty. She looked out the window hoping someone would pass by. One day she went out into the street and invited a perfect stranger to eat with us. The stranger seemed at home as we all felt blessed. If you looked deep into the bread Grandma served, you would find her heart. I have come to realize her “extra” chair was never empty. The Divine Presence was always there. Grandma lived in the expectation of those who would bless her table.
One spiritual master put it this way: “When you have a dinner, do not invite those who can pay you back. Invite the poor, the stranger, the one who cannot return the favor.” These are disturbing words for those who would restrict their holiday gatherings to immediate family and close friends. The words of Jesus give us an opportunity to reconsider who are the members of our families. Think of the time one of your children invited a friend to the Thanksgiving table. There is something wonderful about welcoming a stranger to the table. We discover anew what it means to belong to the family of humankind. As we break bread with our new found friend, our souls are nourished, our spirits uplifted, and our lives might be forever changed. When we welcome someone into our home, we welcome the Presence of God.
Blessings to you, Holy Community, for all the times you offered the hospitality of your heart to another person.