Peace to you!
The readings this weekend revolve around two important themes at the heart of Christian life and pertain to part of our action as a community in the Liturgy: Hospitality and Prayer.
In the Gospel story, Jesus said that Mary had chosen the better part so it seems best to begin with a word about prayer. In the prologue of the holy Rule of St. Benedict everyone is instructed that “Whenever you begin any good work you should first of all make a most pressing appeal to Christ our Lord to bring it to perfection.”
Most of us already have the habit of opening our hearts to God at the beginning of the day. The first movement of the heart is one of praise of God’s greatness and gratitude to be aware of God’s presence. From there it seems natural for more thanksgiving of blessings received. Then we move to the hopes we have for the coming day in which we ask for God’s favor and blessing to be with us so that we will recognize him in the events and people around us and that we may carry out his holy and true command. In this too we include our petition for blessings on the works of our hands that they may be fruitful and bring prosperity and blessing into our lives and the world.
I like to think it was prayer that prepared Abraham for the ministry of hospitality that he exemplifies in today’s scripture. The holy Rule of St. Benedict refers to this passage as the primary example of how important hospitality is. St. Benedict points out that Abraham was not aware that he was actually serving the Holy Trinity and so in our hospitality we are actually serving Christ as he appears in human form!
Obviously, the ministry of hospitality is extremely important everywhere and in all aspects of life. Those who do it well can make others feel the warmth and welcome of Christ. For this reason, it is important to pray and ask God to bless us in our efforts. I thought a few practical notes on Hospitality should be included today.
The ministry of Greeters and Ushers begins well ahead of Mass time with prayer and preparation so that they may be ready at heart to serve the Lord and truly radiate genuine warmth with their smile and graciousness of bearing. They need to arrive early and unlock the doors and check the worship space for cleanliness and comfortable temperature. They need to be aware of the Liturgy of the day so they may assist as needs require, especially on Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday and the Easter Vigil. The Ministers watch for those who may need assistance in and out of Church as well as those who need a place to be seated. This is especially true for guests and those who arrive late. Sometimes they must quickly bring extra chairs for oversize crowds. They are also ready to respond to emergencies, special needs, and they must keep an eye out for ”strangers” —it can get quite exciting at times! But they act in such a way as to not draw attention to themselves, they are visibly invisible and discreet in word and action.
They are responsible to take up the regular Sunday collection and the special collection through the year in an unhurried, dignified and respectful fashion. They are responsible for selecting people to bring forth the gifts of Bread and Wine with regard to the diversity of the community; different ages, families and ethnic cultures. The Ministers hand out worship aids before Mass if candles or special articles are used and they hand out bulletins after Mass. After Mass, they review the pews and worship space to be sure it is neat and orderly for the next use. They turn out all the lights and lock the doors. They do all this in a quiet humble way, usually unnoticed and without adulations. But they do receive a secret gift in their hearts from God who is very pleased with their efforts!
The ministry of Hospitality is not limited to Greeters and Ushers. It is the part of everyday that says “you are welcome in my life.” Thank one of our Ushers and Greeters this weekend who go out of their way to serve others! God bless you all! +++ Fr. Peter