This time of the year the words “generous, extravagant, and abundant and beautiful” seem to be floating in the air. The farmer’s market this past weekend reminded me of that, with so many tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini and green beans. The riot of colors and the anticipation of that ripe tomato sliced with a bit of salt was mouth-watering! Then the flowers! Dahlias, mums, purple status, cone flowers, zinnias, all tucked into big bunches waiting for a home to adorn. It made me happy to just walk amid the booths and seeing people choosing and chatting and taking time to pick just the right things.
Our faith communities need to be places of welcome where we are generous in every way. Generous with time, compassion, empathy, forgiveness, mercy, kindness, joy, and grace. People are hungry for each of those gifts and need to find them amidst the Church and the missionary disciples of today. Every person in the community is given the charge to lavish others with the same love God has given them. What does that look like?
Invitating. We have something – a community that prays, celebrates sacraments, serves those in need and really embodies solidarity is a community where everyone is welcome. No matter who you are or what your story is, you are welcome and it shows.
Authentic and real. The leadership of the parish, the children, youth, young adults, and our elders all share those same gifts with others. Kindness, welcome, joy, and mercy aren’t just for the pastor or someone with degrees in theology. Love is a sign of the church alive. Everyone has something to give.
Shared. The gifts are to be shared generously others from the heart. It is a strange thing; the more we give, the more we are blessed and have enough. God is a God of generosity. The wellspring that never runs dry. We can’t run out of kindness or mercy or joy. Each act generates another. So be generous! Give more than is asked and do more than you thought you could. Share until it touches our own poverty. This is what transforms a community from ordinary to extraordinary, from maintaining to joyful and alive!
Beautiful. Beauty takes us beyond the present and what is right in front of us. It goes deep in our hearts and souls and touches something in us. To spend time making your space and places lovely is not frivolous or shallow. That you would take time to make the environment a place of refreshment and joy is noticed by people. The only word to describe it is beautiful. It is where heaven and earth touch in our midst.
Transformative. When a parish community is consistent in its welcome efforts it begins to seep into the very bones of the Church. Over time it becomes part of the community and people can name it. Would that every faith community would be known for their love and welcome, their hospitality and generosity, because those are the very things Jesus offered to the first followers, disciples and everyone on the margins in need. The very mission and vision of the community must be about welcome and hospitality.
I was invited to a religious community a few days ago, the Sisters of St. Francis of the Holy Cross, because they had just finished work on a new mission and vision statement for their community and were struggling a bit with how to bring it to life. “We are rooted in the Cross, Word and Eucharist. We give our lives to the Gospel of Jesus Christ as expressed through our prayer, presence and hospitality.” It was the word hospitality they were struggling with. As an aging community, they wondered how and to whom would they share hospitality. They of course wanted to do that with one another abundantly, but how could they in their later years still make a difference and offer welcome and love? Here are some of the questions I posed:
- With whom do you want to share your hospitality?
- What is this hospitality? How is it made manifest in your work, lives, and mission?
- How will you invite others to experience your hospitality?
They knew that it wasn’t just about inviting new women into the community. It was more about leaving a legacy and really doing some powerful ministry. They are a very accomplished, gifted, and influential order and wanted to continue to contribute. They wanted it to be through prayer, presence, and hospitality. They got excited about leaving a legacy, passing something on to the next generation and bringing all their wisdom together to figure it out. I know them. They are go- getters. They will do this in generous, extravagant, abundant, and beautiful ways. They just needed affirmation and encouragement that hospitality is needed and people are hungry for all it offers. They have a little corner of the world to serve and there they can give and make a difference.
Perhaps each of us needs a mission and vision that includes those three powerful words. “Prayer. Presence. Hospitality.” Just imagine what your corner of the world could look like if you unleashed the power of those words!