October 15, 2021

Worship and Evangelization Outreach / Jennifer Burger

Hospitality of Christ touches and transforms lives

Jennifer BurgerAt the heart of our mission statement at Our Lady of Fatima Retreat House in Indianapolis is the word “hospitality.” It is more than something that is offered in the way of a service or a place for retreats or programs: it is an invitation to enter into the mystery of God, where the love of God in Christ finds a home in the hearts of those who visit here—whether that be for a week, weekend, a day or even an hour.

At the “heart” of our retreat house is the chapel where Christ is present in the tabernacle. Guests from all walks of life and faith backgrounds find rest and feel at home with God in this chapel. It is a welcome and peaceful place for all.

We have recently added a piece to our chapel that beautifully unites the heart of both our mission and Christ in our tabernacle. It is a 33-inch replica of the “Cross of New Life,” the original of which resides above the sanctuary in Holy Family Church in Inverness, Ill., measuring 16 feet in height!

It is a unique and inspiring piece: Christ appears to be emerging from rays of light in resurrected glory, and is extending his arm out with his hand open as if to reach our own hands. It is an invitation to all who come seeking compassion, understanding, acceptance and love of our Lord and one another. It is the personification of hospitality in Christ himself!

Jesus is the model of hospitality—he welcomes all and comes to us as friend and Savior. We see this in Scripture, from the calling of Matthew to the woman at the well. He invites us all—“I came so that they may have life and have it more abundantly” (Jn 10:10)—as it was then, is now and will be forever. God, in his desire to be in relationship with all of us through his son Jesus Christ, extends his hand to us—perhaps it is a welcome, an offer of help or showing the way.

Whatever Christ may be offering each person by way of this hospitality, we, having accepted the invitation and having welcomed Christ into our hearts, are called to carry on his mission by offering the hospitality of Christ to others. As we hear in his Letter to the Romans, St. Paul encourages us “to contribute to the needs of the holy ones, to exercise hospitality” (Rom 12:13).

The “holy ones” are all of God’s people, which includes you, me and all those whom we hold dear to our hearts, as well as the stranger and those with whom we are estranged by circumstances and ideology.

When we exercise hospitality, author Agnes Kovacs reminds us in her book, All Are Welcome Here: Practicing Christ’s Call to Hospitality, “We make room for others”—God’s people—“in our hearts, in our work and in our home.” We take the time, extend ourselves and give attention to the other, we listen to and are present to the other, we meet them where they are and engage them and invite them. We make them feel welcome and that they belong. “Human beings long to belong!” Kovacs writes. When we do this, “we prepare the soil of both our and their souls for an encounter with Christ. This is evangelization at its best!” she adds.

It is through the hospitality of Christ that lives are touched and transformed, made new and refreshed. It is at the heart of our mission and existence here at Our Lady of Fatima Retreat House. May it be at the heart of your daily life and home as well!

Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us!
 

(Jennifer Burger is office manager, registrar and a spiritual director at Our Lady of Fatima Retreat House in Indianapolis.)

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