Dear POP folks,
August is a time of new beginnings and re-connecting as we transition into the lifestyle changes of September.
Our focus here at Prince of Peace these days and in the months to come is a command from St. Peter to the early Christian believers in his first epistle (4:9): “Offer hospitality to one another….”
This is in the Bible: it’s always been there. The Holy Spirit, constantly at work in the family of Christ, directs our attention to different messages in the Holy Scripture at different times. Offering welcome and hospitality is especially in the spotlight these days as a result of the beautiful daily teachings and admonitions of Pope Francis. Not long ago, he preached:
“May the Church be a place of mercy and of hope in God, where everyone can feel welcomed, loved, forgiven, and encouraged to live the good life of the Gospel. And to feel welcomed, loved, forgiven, encouraged, the Church’s doors must be open, so that all may come and that we can go out of those doors and proclaim the Gospel.”
Who is particularly entrusted with the task of welcoming? YOU are!
One of the reasons that people who have been away from the practice of faith return and stay is if they feel Welcome. Not just from the altar, but from YOU.
The first face a stranger encounters coming to Mass is yours. The person next to a stranger in the pew who welcomes her is you. You are the one who helps him find the place in the hymnal or who retrieves a worship aid for him. You are the one who reaches out to her at the Sign of Peace. You are the Church for the first-visit inquirer or the strayed sheep who is trying to return home.
When many of us go into a new group or a new situation – a school, a job, a party, a sports league, a parish church – we may encounter what Father Henri Nouwen calls our greatest fear:
“Not being welcome is your greatest fear. It connects with your birth fear, your fear of not being welcome in this life, and your death fear, your fear of not being welcome in the life after this. It is the deep-seated fear that it would have been better if you had not lived.”
YOU are never in church alone or just for yourself. Your role in the liturgy is to pray, to listen, to respond, and to be a Welcomer in the Name of Christ Jesus.
Let us listen to our first pope and our current pope, Peter and Francis, and become channels of hospitality for all who come to our doors.