A Catholic Monthly Magazine

Make Hospitality Your Special Care (Romans 12:13)

by Sue Jones

by Sue Jones

The run up to Christmas is a time to think about hospitality. It is said that hospitality is the special care of Christians. Why is this? Surely people outside Christianity can be generous hosts and hostesses?

My dictionary defines hospitality as liberal entertainment of strangers or guests. What does the word liberal mean? Is it a word to which the life of Christ gives unique definition? These days it is difficult to define the word liberal. It has become a word associated with politics rather than love.

Catholics know that the creation story culminating in the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is a liberal act of love on the part of God. The whole basis of Christian discipleship is the liberal life of love which keeps that generosity alive. However, human nature is geared towards preservation of the self and maintenance of the egocentric world. Mingy love often comes with that self-interest.

The Christian challenge to hospitality at Christmas time is to be generous with what we have. What we have is the freedom to love won for us by Jesus Christ. Nobody, no created thing can take that freedom away from us. We are joined at the hip with Christ free to love as he did. When we think about this our hospitality begins to take on a different emphasis. Our practical concerns become riven with love and our entertainment of guests and strangers moves towards being liberal.Christmas dinner

From ancient times human beings have struggled to describe what hospitality riven with love looks like. Isaiah describes it in rich imagery in that reading we know so well -- “A banquet of rich food, a banquet of fine wines, of food rich and juicy, of fine strained wines.”

If we want a more down to earth example for our Christmas entertainment we can read the story of the wedding feast at Cana. According to the experts the amount of wine for the number of guests that would normally be at a wedding at that time was a liberal amount. But still there was room in this human show of hospitality for God to reveal his extraordinary generosity. That Jesus needed prompting to perform the miracle endears him to us as a human being who sometimes hesitates in the face of God’s need to be part of our celebrations. Mary sensed God’s need to flow through this situation and the rest we know.

Christmas is a season when Catholics can allow God’s extraordinary generosity to flow through their celebrations. So often it is a time of money worries for many. Let us try not to dwell on that but rather aim for a bit of hospitality riven with love. In this season of outrageous joy and peace on earth miracles in entertainment can happen where love rips open the world to make way for God’s presence.

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