Reﬂections on Mission
Mission Expressed as Hospitality
Sister Therese Wetta, ASC, PhD Catholic Charities USA Alexandria, VA
he ﬁfth in the Catholic Charities USA Reﬂections on Mission series, this resource is designed to help you reﬂect on a very speciﬁc way each of us is invited to live the mission of our agency, namely, in the hospitality we extend to every person who enters our agency doors, including one another. This series is meant to be practical – to give information that will further your understanding of the relationship of mission and hospitality and to provide questions that will stimulate you to think about how you are a living witness of this mission by who you are and what you do at the agency.
Leader: Welcome to this exploration of how we live out our mission through expressions of hospitality. As usual, we begin with prayer. Let us pray together.
God, we gather in this space and place, ﬁlled with gratitude for all your blessings. Our oﬃces are shelters which, for some people, are the only safe places they know. Bless the doorways to our building and our oﬃces. May all who come through these doors be treated with respect and kindness. Let us greet them with a genuine spirit of welcome and compassion. May the spirit of peace and hope abound in our conversation. This we pray in God’s name. Amen Leader: Reader: And now let us listen to this brief reading. Your way of acting should be diﬀerent from the world’s way: the love of Christ must come before all else. You are not to act in anger or nurse a grudge. Rid your heart of all deceit. Never give a hollow greeting of peace or turn away someone who needs your love. Abridged Edition of the Rule of St. Benedict Brief reﬂection Leader: Let us pray together: May our doors always be open to those in need, to the neighbor and to the stranger. May those who come to us in times of trouble and sorrow ﬁnd our doors open to them and to their needs. May the holy light of God’s presence shine forth brightly and be a blessing for all who work here and for everyone who comes to our door. This we pray in God’s name. Amen.
Leader: Today we are going to explore how we live our mission as a Catholic Charities agency through the expressions of hospitality we extend to each other and to those who come to us. We begin by reviewing our mission statement (distribute a copy to each person). Each person reads silently or someone reads the statement aloud. Leader: Does any word or phrase in our statement speak of hospitality or call you to hospitality? If yes, please circle or underline these words or phrases. Brief pause for this activity Leader: What words or phrases invite us to hospitality? List these and ask for the reasons why they were chosen. Keeping these words/phrases in mind, let’s explore in more depth the concept of hospitality.
Reader: The English words “hospitality” and “hospital” come from the same root word that means “guest room.” Hospitality is to bring healing to both the host and the guest because welcoming the stranger with love is an exchange of receiving something from each other. When we convey to others that their very presence is a gift to us, we create an opportunity for healing them of the fear that they won’t be accepted, respected, or valued. We can heal them of their hidden worry that persons are no longer important – only time, money and success are important. Hospitality is a concrete expression of the love that binds us to God and to one another. In fact, in former times the aim of hospitality was to make the guest feel special and distinguished. St. Paul writes, “welcome one another, therefore, as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” (Romans 15:7) Process Leader: There are many examples in the Christian Scriptures of Jesus welcoming the stranger and extending hospitality to him or her. Some are listed on pages 6-7.
1. In silence, you are asked to read each passage and choose the one that “speaks” to you the most about hospitality. This may mean you will need to read them twice. 2. After you have chosen the passage, please sit for ﬁve minutes in silence letting the passage speak to you and enter deeply into your heart. 3. Then spend another 5-10 minutes writing on paper responses to the following questions. Questions • • • • • What in this Scripture passage spoke to me? Why did this passage touch my heart? My spirit? What did I hear during my time of reﬂection and silence? Is there any particular action I want to take or think the agency could take regarding this expression of hospitality? What connection do I see between this passage and our mission? 20 minutes of silent reﬂection and writing I invite you to get into groups of three and share the passage you chose and why you chose it. 5 minutes for sharing in groups of three Leader: (calls the group together) Now I’m inviting/asking you to share in the large group what you wrote in response to the question, Is there any particular action I think the agency could take regarding this expression of hospitality? Time to share, write down ideas, and discussion
Content Leader: Reader:
Let’s take a few minutes and listen to these reﬂections on hospitality. Hospitality doesn’t require a lot of money or unlimited time. It does however require consideration of others. Hospitality is as close as a smile, a hug, a handshake, an embrace. It is a welcoming word, a sharing of a moment or an hour of time, a listening with respect, an honoring of conﬁdentiality. Hospitality is aﬃrming others, empowering others, building self-conﬁdence, and creating an oﬃce space where we respect diﬀerences. Hospitality is to see others as brothers and sisters. To practice hospitality is to recognize that our skills and talents are gifts from God to be shared with others. To practice hospitality is to do what God asks of us: “Welcome one another, therefore, as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” (Romans 15:7) Brief pause
In listening to these reﬂections, what did you hear that was similar to our list of actions to increase living our mission through hospitality? What did you hear that was diﬀerent from our list? (add to the written list) Group discussion
Having developed a list of actions that we might take as an agency, I’m going to ask you to arrange yourselves by departments. Your task is to agree on one expression of hospitality – either from the list or a new one that you agree upon - that each of you commits to exemplify here at work during this next month. The only persons who need to know this action commitment are those of you in the department. Time for discussion and action commitment
Hospitality is a deed of grace, of welcome, and always a prayer. Whenever we treat any person who comes through our door (a guest) with respect and reverence, we are praying. Each time we care for the needs of a visitor in our facilities with eagerness, we are worshipping God. And, as is always the case, whenever we pray we are blessed in return. The Irish have an expression, “Every guest is a blessing.” Rev. Edward Hays Silent reﬂection We close by praying together words written by the apostle Peter praying that our hospitality truly is a prayer and a living of our mission.
Practice hospitality ungrudgingly to one another. As each has received a gift, employ it for one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace. (1 Peter 4:9) May we be these good stewards of God’s gifts and graces. Amen.
Extend to Others the Gift of Hospitality
Matthew 5:43-44 Love your enemy
You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for God makes the sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.
Corporal works of mercy
When the son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you have me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me. I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”
Sharing of the meal with Judas, the betrayer
Judas, who betrayed Jesus, said, “Surely not I, Rabbi?” Jesus replied, “You have said so.” While they were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you: for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will never again drink of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”
People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” And Jesus took them in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.
Anointing at Bethany
While Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at the table, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment of nard, and she broke open the jar and poured the ointment on his head. But some were there who said to one another in anger, “Why was the ointment wasted in this way? For this ointment could have been sold for more than here hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor.” And they scolded her. But Jesus said, “let her alone; why do you trouble her? She has performed a good service for me. For you always have the poor with you, and you can show kindness to them whenever you wish; but you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for its burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.”
Healings in Simon’s house
After leaving the synagogue, Jesus entered Simon’s house. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was suﬀering from a high fever, and they asked him about her. Then Jesus stood over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her. Immediately she got up and began to serve them.
Feeding of the multitude
On their return the apostles told Jesus all they had done. He took them with him and withdrew privately to a city called Bethsaida. When the crowds found out about it, they followed him; and he welcomed them, and spoke to him about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed to be cured.
Luke 10:25 -37
Story of the Samaritan
Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “What was written in the law? What do you read there?” He answered, “You shall love the lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” And Jesus said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this and you will live.”
Story of healing a crippled woman
Now Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. And just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight. When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, “Woman, you are set free from your ailment.” When Jesus laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God. But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had cured on the Sabbath, kept saying to the crowd, “There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the Sabbath day. But the Lord answer him and said, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it to water? And this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be set free from this bondage on the Sabbath day?”
Story of the rich man and Lazarus
There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and ﬁne linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. He called out, “Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his ﬁner in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these ﬂames.” But Abraham said, “Child, remember that during your lifetime your received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil thins; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been ﬁxed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.”
Story of the Emmaus journey
As they came near the village to which they were going, Jesus walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them. When Jesus was at the table with them, he took bred, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him, and he vanished from their sight. Then they said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?”
No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good.
Hebrews 13:1 -3
Admonition to show hospitality
Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers; for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it. Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; those who are being tortured as though you yourselves were being tortured.
New Revised Standard Version, American Bible Society
Providing Help. Creating Hope.
About the Reﬂections on Mission Series
Reﬂections on Mission is developed by Catholic Charities USA to assist you – agency staﬀ – with understanding the concept of mission and with integrating mission into your work. These resources are meant to be practical. They are designed to provide information that will further your understanding and incorporation of what you do in your agency as a means of living mission. They oﬀer questions that we hope will stimulate you to think about how you are living your agency’s mission. Each reﬂection in this series is designed to be user-friendly and to allow for your imaginative self-expression.