By Mario Martinez
For most, Easter Sunday is a social day when we look forward to sharing the company of others. Some will visit a loved one’s home, while others will open the doors of their home to host family and friends. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, hospitality is “the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers.” For some, this reception of others creates absolute delight, while for others utter dismay. Wherever we may find ourselves on the scale between delight and dismay, we can all agree that hospitality has very profound implications. More than opening our home, being friendly, or generous with others, reception is about opening our hearts to others and becoming a self-gift.
From the beginning, we were created by God to be in a relationship with Him and with others. Pope St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, the Catholic vision of what it means to be a human person made in the image and likeness of God, tells us that our primary vocation as Christians is to become a self-gift. “… man, who is the only creature on earth which God willed for itself, cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself.” (Gaudium Et Spes 24, 1965) Becoming a self-gift means that God has entrusted each one of us the task of giving ourselves in love to Him and to one another.
Is this an easy task? Sometimes. Can this be difficult? Absolutely. Especially when it requires us to stretch and be a gift to those facing special challenges, those we don’t like, those we don’t know, or simply those we don’t understand. Yet, as always, we must look to The Lord and pray for Him to change our hearts of stone into hearts of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26). We must follow the example of Jesus who made room for everyone; taking care of them, serving them, and receiving them with love and gentleness. “Only those who have opened their hearts to Christ can offer a hospitality that is never formal or superficial, but identified by gentleness and reverence.” (St. John Paul II).
We are, in fact, to become increasingly like God, who, in His very essence, is a self-gift: Three Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, giving themselves eternally in love to each other. “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”(John 13:35).
It is also necessary to understand how hospitality is essential to our faith, rooted in Scripture and Tradition. From Jesus’ regard for the Wedding at Cana to feeding the multitude, to His tenderness toward children and the crowds of people who gathered around Him, Christ’s models of hospitality call us to a high standard. We, too, are part of this beautiful tradition. May we always see the face of Christ in those we meet and remember that “We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4: 19).
How are you living the Diocesan core value of hospitality during this season?
Mario Martinez is the Coordinator of the Diocesan Marriage Initiative.