Remember the Knights of the Round Table? Among the more famous were Sir Galahad and Sir Percival. But perhaps you haven’t heard about some of the lesser-known knights. For instance, there was:
The undercover knight, Sir Valiance.
The knight who always showed up unexpectedly, Sir Prize.
The loudest knight, Sir Round Sound.
The knight who drank too much, Sir Rhosis.
And the knight who was also a surgeon, Sir Lancelot.
Are you and your family good at hospitality? Hospitality is a virtue, an expression of a loving heart. So how good are you at hospitality?
Imagine that your mother or grandmother called and said she is coming for a visit. Or a long lost uncle is in town and wants to stop by. How do you get ready for these people?
Well, hospitality includes cleanliness. So you begin by cleaning up your house, -- washing the floor or vacuuming the rug, dusting the furniture and cleaning the bathroom, straightening up the papers and magazines, maybe cutting the lawn and sweeping the sidewalk. Cleanliness is important. It conveys to the visitor that you consider them worthy of a tidy environment.
You may even want to add some extra touches. Perhaps some flowers on the table, or soft music playing in the background.
And then there is the concern about food. Perhaps you want to offer your visitor coffee and cake, or perhaps you want to prepare a full meal for them. You might ask them what they would like to eat, or what they can’t eat.
Conversation. What will you talk about? You plan on putting aside the “I” word and asking them lots of questions, questions about where they have been, what they have done, how is their health, etc. You want to place them at the center of your attention, and listencarefully to what they have to say. You want to make them feel important. Listening to them makes them feel important.
Mostly you want to make them feel welcome, and let them know how pleased you are that they came to visit. And when they leave you want to convey to them know how much you enjoyed their company. Yes, hospitality is a virtue. It takes energy and creativity.
In today’s gospel, Jesus tells his disciples, “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.”
Jesus wants to come and dwell in our hearts! How do we get our hearts ready for him? How do we provide hospitality for the Lord?
Well, the first thing to do is clean up the place. Is there any unforgiveness in our hearts, any anger, or any prejudice? Is there any gossip going on, any lying or any lust? Now is the time to sweep all that out. Otherwise, there won’t be much room for the Lord. He won’t feel welcome. He won’t fit in.
Then we want to decorate our hearts with lots of compassion, kindness, and acts of self-sacrifice. Jesus would feel right at home in a heart like that.
Conversation. How do we engage in a conversation with Jesus? Remember Martha and Mary in the gospels? Martha was busy with all the physical necessities of hospitality. Mary was at the feet of Jesus, listening. Hospitality involves listening.
Conversation with Jesus does not require that we say much. The Lord knows our needs, our gratitude, our fears and worries, our hopes and dreams. A mere mention about us is enough. We need to know his thoughts and his will for us. We need to listen. With Samuel we say, “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.”(Cf. 1 Samuel 3:10)
What about food? Nourishment? Here the role is reversed. Jesus doesn’t come to be fed. He comes to feed us, to nourish our minds, our hearts, and our wills.
Actually, he even comes early to help us clean up our hearts. And he comes bearing a gift, the gift of the Holy Spirit. We will hear more about this at Pentecost.
Why would Jesus want to come and dwell in us in the first place? He doesn’t come so he can sit around and get comfortable, like a couch potato. He comes because he wants to do something through us.
Remember St. Theresa’s famous statement about us? This is especially fitting as we approach the Feast of the Ascension. St. Theresa said,
“Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are his body. Christ has no body now on earth but yours.”
Jesus comes to dwell in us so that he can continue his saving work through us. He comes to teach through us, to heal through us, to inspire through us. -- He even comes to enjoy others through us. As we read in Psalm 149, “TheLord takes delight in his people”(Psalm 149:4). How does he take delight in his people? Through us.
Jesus needs our hands, our feet, our eyes, and our mouths. He will supply the wisdom, the courage, and the love, if we first say that beautiful word of hospitality, “Welcome.” Or, in Mary’s word’s, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be it done to me according to your word”(Luke 1:38).
The goal of our life here on earth is to be able to say with St. Paul, “I live no longer I, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). That means, “I act no longer I, but Christ acts through me.” “I love no longer I, but Christ loves through me.”
Very simply, that means the goal of our life here on earth is the union of our hearts with God’s heart, loving as God does all creation, all people.
Love brings heaven to earth. Once we reach that, it all makes sense.