Hospitality



Pope Francis       12.07.15 Holy Mass Campo Grande, Ñu Guazú, Asuncion, Paraguay       Psalm 85: 8-14,      Mark 6: 7-13

Pope Francis Welcoming others 12.07.15

“The Lord will shower down blessings, and our land will yield its increase”. These are the words of the Psalm. We are invited to celebrate this mysterious communion between God and his People, between God and us. The rain is a sign of his presence, in the earth tilled by our hands. It reminds us that our communion with God always brings forth fruit, always gives life. This confidence is born of faith, from knowing that we depend on grace, which will always transform and nourish our land.

It is a confidence which is learned, which is taught. A confidence nurtured within a community, in the life of a family. A confidence which radiates from the faces of all those people who encourage us to follow Jesus, to be disciples of the One who can never deceive. A disciple knows that he or she is called to have this confidence; we feel Jesus’s invitation to be his friend, to share his lot, his very life. “No longer do I call you servants... but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you”. The disciples are those who learn how to live trusting in the friendship offered by Jesus.

The Gospel speaks to us of this kind of discipleship. It shows us the identity card of the Christian. Our calling card, our credentials.

Jesus calls his disciples and sends them out, giving them clear and precise instructions. He challenges them to take on a whole range of attitudes and ways of acting. Sometimes these can strike us as exaggerated or even absurd. It would be easier to interpret these attitudes symbolically or “spiritually”. But Jesus is quite precise, very clear. He doesn’t tell them simply to do whatever they think they can.

Let us think about some of these attitudes: “Take nothing for the journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money...” “When you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place” (cf. Mk 6:8-11). All this might seem quite unrealistic.

We could concentrate on the words, “bread”, “money”, “bag”, “staff”, “sandals” and “tunic”. And this would be fine. But it strikes me that one key word can easily pass unnoticed among the challenging words I have just listed. It is a word at the heart of Christian spirituality, of our experience of discipleship: “welcome”. Jesus as the good master, the good teacher, sends them out to be welcomed, to experience hospitality. He says to them: “Where you enter a house, stay there”. He sends them out to learn one of the hallmarks of the community of believers. We might say that a Christian is someone who has learned to welcome others, who has learned to show hospitality.

Jesus does not send them out as men of influence, landlords, officials armed with rules and regulations. Instead, he makes them see that the Christian journey is simply about changing hearts. One’s own heart first all, and then helping to transform the hearts of others. It is about learning to live differently, under a different law, with different rules. It is about turning from the path of selfishness, conflict, division and superiority, and taking instead the path of life, generosity and love. It is about passing from a mentality which domineers, stifles and manipulates to a mentality which welcomes, accepts and cares.

These are two contrasting mentalities, two ways of approaching our life and our mission.

How many times do we see mission in terms of plans and programs. How many times do we see evangelization as involving any number of strategies, tactics, manoeuvres, techniques, as if we could convert people on the basis of our own arguments. Today the Lord says to us quite clearly: in the mentality of the Gospel, you do not convince people with arguments, strategies or tactics. You convince them by simply learning how to welcome them.

The Church is a mother with an open heart. She knows how to welcome and accept, especially those in need of greater care, those in greater difficulty. The Church, as desired by Jesus, is the home of hospitality. And how much good we can do, if only we try to speak this language of hospitality, this language of receiving and welcoming. How much pain can be soothed, how much despair can be allayed in a place where we feel at home! This requires open doors, especially the doors of our heart. Welcoming the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, the prisoner (Mt 25:34-37), the leper and the paralytic. Welcoming those who do not think as we do, who do not have faith or who have lost it. And sometimes, we are to blame. Welcoming the persecuted, the unemployed. Welcoming the different cultures, of which our earth is so richly blessed. Welcoming sinners, because each one of us is also a sinner.

So often we forget that there is an evil underlying our sins, that precedes our sins. There is a bitter root which causes damage, great damage, and silently destroys so many lives. There is an evil which, bit by bit, finds a place in our hearts and eats away at our life: it is isolation. Isolation which can have many roots, many causes. How much it destroys our life and how much harm it does us. It makes us turn our back on others, God, the community. It makes us closed in on ourselves. From here we see that the real work of the Church, our mother, should not be mainly about managing works and projects, but rather about learning to experience fraternity with others. A welcome-filled fraternity is the best witness that God is our Father, for “by this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn 13:35).

In this way, Jesus teaches us a new way of thinking. He opens before us a horizon brimming with life, beauty, truth and fulfilment.

God never closes off horizons; he is never unconcerned about the lives and sufferings of his children. God never allows himself to be outdone in generosity. So he sends us his Son, he gives him to us, he hands him over, he shares him... so that we can learn the way of fraternity, of self-giving. In a definitive way, he opens up a new horizon; he is a new word which sheds light on so many situations of exclusion, disintegration, loneliness and isolation. He is a word which breaks the silence of loneliness.

And when we are weary or worn down by our efforts to evangelize, it is good to remember that the life which Jesus holds out to us responds to the deepest needs of people. “We were created for what the Gospel offers us: friendship with Jesus and love of our brothers and sisters” (Evangelii Gaudium, 265).

On thing is sure: we cannot force anyone to receive us, to welcome us; this is itself part of our poverty and freedom. But neither can anyone force us not to be welcoming, hospitable in the lives of our people. No one can tell us not to accept and embrace the lives of our brothers and sisters, especially those who have lost hope and zest for life. How good it would be to think of our parishes, communities, chapels, wherever there are Christians, with open doors, true centres of encounter between ourselves and God.

The Church is a mother, like Mary. In her, we have a model. We too must provide a home, like Mary, who did not lord it over the word of God, but rather welcomed that word, bore it in her womb and gave it to others.

We too must provide a home, like the earth, which does not choke the seed, but receives it, nourishes it and makes it grow.

That is how we want to be Christians, that is how we want to live the faith on this Paraguayan soil, like Mary, accepting and welcoming God’s life in our brothers and sisters, in confidence and with the certainty that “the Lord will shower down blessings, and our land will yield its increase”. May it be so.





Pope Francis  22.01.20   General Audience     Pope VI Audience Hall        Catechesis on Christian Unity      Acts 28: 2 

Pope Francis Christian Unity 22.01.20

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

Today's catechesis is harmonised with the Week of Prayer for the Unity of Christians. This year's theme, which is that of hospitality, was developed by the communities of Malta and Gozo, starting from the passage of the Acts of the Apostles that tells of the hospitality reserved by the inhabitants of Malta to St Paul and his fellow travellers, who were shipwrecked together with him. I referred to just this episode in my catechesis of two weeks ago.

So let us start from the dramatic experience of that shipwreck. The ship in which Paul was travelling was at the mercy of the elements. They had been at sea for fourteen days, adrift, and since neither the sun nor the stars are visible, the seafarers felt disoriented, lost. Beneath them the sea is striking violently against the ship and they fear that it will break under the force of the waves. From above they are lashed by the wind and rain. The strength of the sea and the storm is terribly powerful and indifferent to the fate of the seafarers: there were more than 260 people!

But Paul who knows that is not like this, speaks. His faith tells him that his life is in the hands of God, who rose Jesus from the dead, and who called him, Paul, to bring the gospel to the ends of the earth. His faith also tells him that God, according to what Jesus has revealed, is a loving Father. Therefore Paul turns to his fellow travellers and, inspired by faith, announces to them that God will not allow a hair of their head to be lost.

This prophecy comes true when the ship runs aground on the coast of Malta and all of the passengers reach the mainland safely. And there they experience something new. In contrast to the brutal violence of the stormy sea, they receive the testimony of the "rare humanity" of the inhabitants of the island. These people, foreign to them, are attentive to their needs. They light a fire to warm them up, and give them shelter from the rain and food. Even though they have not yet received the Good News of Christ, they show God's love in concrete acts of kindness. In fact, spontaneous hospitality and thoughtful gestures communicate something about God's love. And the hospitality of the Maltese islanders is repaid by the miracles of healing that God works through Paul on the island. So, if the people of Malta were a sign of God's Providence for the Apostle, he too witnessed God's merciful love for them.

Dear ones, hospitality is important; and it is also an important ecumenical virtue. First of all, it means acknowledging that other Christians are truly our brothers and sisters in Christ. We're brothers. Someone will tell you: "But that is Protestant, the orthodox one ..." Yes, but we are brothers in Christ. It is not an one-way act of generosity, because when we give hospitality to other Christians we welcome them as a gift that is given to us. Like the Maltese - these good Maltese - we are rewarded, because we receive what the Holy Spirit has sown in these brothers and sisters of ours, and this becomes a gift for us too, because the Holy Spirit also sows his graces everywhere. Welcoming Christians of another tradition means firstly showing God's love to them, because they are children of God – our brothers – and also means welcoming what God has accomplished in their lives. Ecumenical hospitality requires a willingness to listen to others, paying attention to their personal stories of faith and the history of their community, communities of faith with another tradition other than our own. Ecumenical hospitality involves the desire to know the experience that other Christians have of God and the expectation of receiving the spiritual gifts that come with it. And this is a grace, discovering this is a grace. I think of the past, my land for example. When some evangelical missionaries came, a small group of Catholics went to burn their tents. This is not: it is not Christian. We are brothers, we are all brothers and we have to give hospitality with each other.

Today, the sea on which Paul and his companions were shipwrecked is once again a dangerous place for the lives of other seafarers. All over the world, migrant men and women face risky journeys to escape violence, to escape war, to escape poverty. As Paul and his companions experience indifference, the hostility of the desert, of rivers, of the seas... So many times they don't let them land in the ports. But, unfortunately, they sometimes also encounter much worse hostility from men. They are exploited by criminal traffickers: today! They are treated as numbers and as a threat by some rulers: today! Sometimes inhospitality rejects them like a wave back to the poverty or the dangers from which they have fled.

We, as Christians, must work together to show migrants the love of God revealed by Jesus Christ. We can and must testify that there is not only hostility and indifference, but that every person is precious to God and loved by Him. The divisions that still exist between us prevent us from being fully the sign of God's love. Working together to live ecumenical hospitality, especially towards those whose lives are most vulnerable, will make us all Christians – Protestants, Orthodox, Catholics, all Christians – better human beings, better disciples and a Christian people that is more united. It will bring us ever closer to unity, which is God's will for us