Unless you have been asleep during your life as a Catholic you know that in this season of Lent the Church encourages you to use three tools of the faith in order to re-focus your spiritual walk; prayer, almsgiving and fasting. For many of the faithful these three practices are more than familiar. Discussions about “giving up” are rife and things like, chocolate, coffee, and sweets are merged into the idea of “sacrifice”. While the discipline of depriving yourself of something in order to recall and honor the sacrifices of Jesus is not a bad thing maybe there is a perspective you can take that you never thought of before.
As we make our way through Lent we might get to a place where giving up the same favorite “treat” for the umpteenth time has lost some of its impact. As we practice our faith there are things we do so automatically that could be life changing if we just turned them up a notch. The trio of prayer, almsgiving and fasting are potent spiritual practices but what if you could take on another discipline and fresh perspective that encompassed all three at the same time?
“Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect hospitality, for through it some have unknowingly entertained angels” (Heb 13:1). Hospitality is a concept that can be reflected in many aspects of spiritual life, especially those that we can’t see. It’s easy to keep track of the donation you’ve given, the time you’ve spent in prayer or the physical sacrifice you have made. But what about the state of your spirit that no one can see? You know, that part of your spirit that silently mocks, criticizes, judges, condemns or critiques other people and/or situations? Personal hospitality can address all of these; Do you turn your eyes downward or do you look into the face of that beggar or do you give them a welcoming smile as you ask their name? Do you help out at a shelter, half-way house or soup kitchen and treat the clients with dignity no matter how they look, smell or seem to be just a “little crazy”? Do you react with patience and calm to your obnoxious relative who seems bent on creating one more family disaster? Would you buy necessities for someone who really needed them with the money that you were saving to buy something for yourself? Would you welcome someone into your home who needed companionship and showed up unannounced? Would you allow yourself to be inconvenienced in time and/or money for the sake or another who needed ministry right here and now? Would you share your time and a meal for a stranger or acquaintance who was in desperate need? Would you interrupt your “tight schedule” to pray with someone who needed a lift?
True hospitality is a move of the heart. All of the above are acts of hospitality that anyone could do. They are also acts of sacrifice (fasting), alms giving and living prayer. Hospitality could very well wind up to be the fourth sacrifice. Do you have the courage to practice it this Lent? Go ahead and “put out into deep water” as Jesus asked the fishermen to do. He knew they would be changed by moving into unfamiliar territory. The true object of Lent is to be a different person at the end of Lent than the person who began Lent. Amen.