Henri Nouwen, the great spiritual writer, was going to a monastery for a retreat. The monks observed vows of silence and the retreat was to be meditative and prayerful. Nouwen was delayed and was late getting to the Monastery on a very unwelcoming miserable, rainy night. Upon his arrival, he rang the bell and was met at the door by one of the brothers. He warmly greeted Henri, took his wet coat, took him to the kitchen and made him a cup of tea. They chatted into the late-night hours and Nouwen began to relax and feel ready for the retreat. He knew this monk was supposed to observe silence, so he finally asked him, “Why are you willing to sit and talk with me?” The monk replied, “Of all the duties of the Christian faith and the rules of my order, none is higher than hospitality.”
The church is a community as well, and hospitality should be a primary focus. Today’s church should be a place of welcome to all who come our way. There should be no connotation that only “rule followers” are welcome at the church. I fear that we have forgotten the concept of radical hospitality and confused it with assimilation into our group. If the church is to practice true hospitality, it must practice inclusiveness. That means no one is barred from total participation in the life of the church. I am concerned that we have lost sight of a most important tenet of Christianity. I thank the monastics for giving us a reminder.
Not only the churches but our homes and personal spaces should be welcoming. We should be ready to help and greet those who come our way. In doing so, we welcome God and reap the benefit. I believe that hospitality is at the core of Christianity. It is of the highest of the practices of our faith.
Lord, help me to remember that the open door of hospitality can have eternal consequences. Let me practice the open door in my heart so that I may reap the reward of plenty that comes to those who truly share with their brothers and sisters. Give me the gift of never considering a stranger as strange and unworthy.