Then he said to his host, â€śWhen you give a lunch or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relations or rich neighbours, in case they invite you back and so repay you. No; when you have a party, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; then you will be blessed, for they have no means to repay you and so you will be repaid when the upright rise again.â€ť
Read the Reflection
Being Made Welcome
Maria Kennedy MM
A recent trip overseas to visit my daughter has made me reflect on the concept of being made welcome. No matter where I went, from country to country, from among friends, family or strangers, I was made welcome.
This gift of welcome came in many forms - meeting a plane that landed at 6am on a Sunday; an invitation to dinner; being showed around the sights; entry fees paid for; and even having the wine poured and waiting for us, in anticipation of our arrival.
We all recognise a welcome. It is often accompanied with a smile and a hug. It feels warm. Thereâ€™s nothing quite like the welcome of meeting someone you havenâ€™t seen for a long time. When travelling, a shower and comfortable bed after a long journey is also very welcomed.
A welcome involves a certain amount of fuss. To welcome someone into our homes we usually clean, go to the supermarket, cook and get a bit stressed, hoping that the visitors will have a nice time but at the same time we also feel excited as we anticipate the visit.
As Christians, we are called to be welcoming people. In particular we are asked to welcome those others have abandoned - the poor, the dispossessed, and the broken. We take this from Christâ€™s example to us and, now that He is in heaven, we become His arms, His voice and His human face. We also take our cues from the example of His mother, Mary.
This was the case when I was in Spain. I was lucky enough to be made welcome at Montserrat, an hourâ€™s journey from Barcelona. Montserrat is both a national park and a mountain. Near the top of the mountain sits a monastery run by the Benedictine monks and in the monasteryâ€™s basilica resides the statue of Madonna and Child titled Our Lady of Montserrat. The statue has been there and venerated since the 12th century.
If Our Lady wanted to welcome us to Montserrat, she first had to get us there because of the difficult location. All sorted for todayâ€™s pilgrims. We used the train and a monorail. On arrival a large cafeteria with toilet facilities was a welcome find as my daughter still hadnâ€™t had her morning wake up coffee. Montserrat employs several hundred locals to serve the visitors. From there we went even higher up on a cable car to go walking. This was easy too because our transport ticket covered all costs and it was well sign posted. The day was fine and we were able to enjoy several hours in the area. Even nature had welcomed us with a clear and beautiful day, and the views were amazing.
Back at Montserrat people were milling about everywhere. Montserrat receives over 2 million visitors every year. Everyone was welcome to explore. There were no entry fees. There were further walkways, all beautifully maintained, where we could continue to take in the fine views of Catalonia below. However the main draw card to Montserrat is the Black Madonna in the basilica. The welcome now became slightly tense as officials tried to maintain dignity and order among the pilgrims as we neared the Madonna, but it was also exciting. There was a gentleman to usher us in and another to make sure no one lingered too long in front of the statue. I only had a few seconds to hold her hand and exchange a moment where it was only her and me. This special and venerated Madonna held the world in her right hand and protectively brought her left hand around the Christ child sitting on her lap. His right hand was raised in a blessing. Then it was over and I was back down the steps and searching in my purse to find money to buy a candle.
The fuss that was made of us at Montserrat is a lesson on how to be welcoming Christians. No one was kept away. Our needs were anticipated and ironed out beforehand, given through the actions of many and in the spirit of Maryâ€™s wishes. It took place without it being a bother or a nuisance, as if the pleasure was all Maryâ€™s to welcome us there. Politeness and courtesy were given at all times. There were no obligations placed on us for a reciprocal favour to be given at some future point. The effect of Maryâ€™s welcome was to be nourished in both body and soul and to leave Montserrat with a blessing of peace. Ultimately Maryâ€™s welcome was to point us towards her son and strengthen us to maintain our journey towards Him who also waits for us with open and welcoming arms.
Simply use these questions as a starter to guide your sharing.
What strikes you about this reflection and reading?
Who are the people around us today that cannot â€śrepayâ€ť us for our welcome?
What are some ways you help people feel truly welcome in your home, parish or group? When has hospitality really touched you?
Hospitality is central to Marist spiritualty; How does your parish or group reach out in hospitality, welcome or practical help?
When you notice someone missing from your group, Sunday Mass or other community gathering what do you do to make contact and check they are ok?
Pray for your needs and intentions and conclude with this prayer together.
Prayer of the Madonna of Montserrat
O God, giver of every good,
you have chosen this mountain as
a centre of special devotion
to the Mother of your only begotten Son;
grant us the aid of the Virgin Mary,
so that we may safely
reach that mountain which is Christ.
Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen