The entire Archdiocese of Detroit has a special focus for this Advent/Christmas season—especially for Christmas Eve/Day itself. We are calling it “Radical Hospitality.” Hospitality is an important virtue in our tradition, from Old Testament times right down to our own Fr. Ron, “the prince of hospitality.”
Jesus told his disciples, “Whoever gives you so much as a cup of water will not go without his/her reward.” Jesus himself accepted the hospitality of Martha, Mary, and Lazarus. They knew that he sometimes needed a place where he could relax and unwind, and they were honored to provide it for him.
I have found that hospitality is in the fabric of African-American and Hispanic churches. You are greeted when you enter, whoever you are, and they will ask all visitors to stand at some point during mass, so you can be acknowledged and invited to return. We can certainly learn much from these churches.
As we approach Christmas, we recall that no one could bother providing a place for Joseph and his expectant wife Mary, we want to be intentional about “making room.” This is our St. Isidore motto for this season. “Making room” means many things, but we do not want to overlook the literal meaning. It might mean simply sitting in the middle of a pew instead of on the aisle—unless there is some reason that I need to sit there—so that late arrivers don’t have to climb over someone. Regrettably, this can happen even when the church is only half-filled. On the other hand, sitting in the middle of a pew says, “I welcome you.”
If making room is important on ordinary Sundays, it is all the more important on Christmas when the place is packed. Those of us who are regular churchgoers, clergy and staff included, are often guilty of make snide remarks about “Christmas and Easter Catholics”—as if we didn’t appreciate the extra money in the collection on those holidays! Yes, it can be hard to find a parking place on Christmas Eve, but our archbishop is asking us to get past our petty griping to see a great opportunity. Christmas is our best chance to invite new people into our congregations and welcome back those who have drifted away.
It is a time to say, “Merry Christmas, wonderful to see you, my name is ____”
It is not a time to judge people, because we don’t know why they’ve been absent. For all we know, it could be something I said, did, or didn’t do—this is especially true for us priests!