Above the main door of our church it says Domus Christie – the house of the Lord. Hospitality comes from God. As Jesus told us in His parables, we are invited to the Wedding Banquet, so long as we are willing to carry the cross and arrive dressed for the wedding. Many saints have spoken of the spiritual clothing from the prayer of St. Patrick’s Breastplate based on St. Paul, through the description of spiritual clothing Jesus gave to St Bridget of Sweden and so on.
Some time ago a friend of mine told me of a book he was reading which was supposed to the future of Christian churches. The author suggested that the churches needed to respond to the world’s view of the citizen as consumer who will seek out a church that best suits their individual needs and interests. I found this a deeply disturbing proposal. Essentially the author had decided that people didn’t want to go to church to serve, worship and be with Christ. On the contrary, they were not at all interested in the Gospel – they merely wanted a community centre to meet and chat with friends, to have their egos stroked and never to be challanged in any way. What this author’s idea had to do with being Christian is anyone’s guess.
Accepting the hospitality of Christ means going to His house to worship Him first (seeking the Kingdom first) and then all the other stuff, like friends and community and cake sales will come with it.
Unfortunately many churches have a kind of ‘gatekeeper’ who prevents people coming in, or makes it clear they are only welcome if they can fulfil some need for that church. This is a dreadful thing to do – preventing fellow Christians from coming to the altar – to the foot of the cross. In other cases there are those who seek to bring back the wanderers, but not for their own sake, but because whatever role they had in the parish still requires doing.
The hospitality of the Church is broader by far (or should be) than the community who meet each Sunday or every day to celebrate the Mass (or servic, or Divine Liturgy). All those people too sick, frail or tied down for other reasons and cannot attend are still part of the local parish. A good parish will see to it that they too can receive the Sacraments, and have their spiritual and even physical needs met. It isn’t about either/or but the good ol’Catholic saying of “both/and”.
Accepting the hospitality of God means doing it on His terms, not how we might like to do it. Doing it our way never works very well anyway.