Growing up, Christmas lunch was spent at my Aunt Eil’s place. Once there, we would all begin the annual game of sardines to see how many people can physically fit along a series of tables squished into the sleepout of a 1940’s brick house. (I actually remember having to crawl under the table to get to my seat!)
My aunt didn’t have any children but at Christmas, like throughout the year for her, the door was opened to anyone who didn’t have anywhere else to go. And these people were made to feel truly welcome.
Like the loaves and the fishes, somehow there was always plenty of food and always plenty of love to go around. My aunt wasn’t wealthy. She wasn’t successful – but to me, she was great. She was great at all the important stuff – like how she made people feel. From her, I learnt the value of hospitality.
In the Gospel today, Jesus challenges the disciples’ ideas of greatness and invites us too to consider our ideas about what it means to be great.
“Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.”
In our world, it’s all too easy to get caught up trying to achieve, succeed, to compete, to excel…to be great. But Jesus always flipped things and he reminds us that being great isn’t about awards, rewards and accolades. It’s about being humble, about serving others, about welcoming the vulnerable and those with the lowest place in society, embracing them like the child in the scripture:
“Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.”
In Fratelli Tutti, Pope Francis reflects on the “sacred duty of hospitality” (n.90). What if we challenged ourselves this week to welcome others to our Parish, our school, our community, in a way that is sacred – recognising their sacredness? To not only hope to be the face of Christ for others – but like my Aunt Eil, to seek and search for the face of Christ in all those around us.
Let us this week be welcomers of God’s presence in our lives through the sacred duty of hospitality. For we all belong to each other.