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two people in a friendly handshake

By Fr. Pat Raleigh

Unless we are an exception to the rule, most people feel very happy when they are made feel welcome. One of the nicest things in life is to meet an open, warm, friendly, hospitable person. I thank God for all the people in my life, beginning with my parents, family, friends, the people of the Philippines and Pakistan and many other places who made me feel so welcome. Today, it would be good to take some quiet time to reflect on our own welcome signexperiences of hospitality and being made welcome. We might also reflect on how welcoming we are in our own lives especially to the stranger. Hospitality is not so much about open doors as about open hearts. There is a risk in having an open heart particularly in these changing times. One can get hurt. But to open one's heart is to begin to live. To close it is to begin to die.

Hospitality to a friend is no big deal. There is no risk involved, and there is every likelihood that the favor will be returned. But hospitality to a stranger is different. But Jesus calls on us, and particularly in these changing times, with so many people on the move, to welcome strangers in our midst. To be hospitable does not mean making them like us. It means accepting them as they are with the richness of their culture and talents. This enables them to shed their strangeness and become integrated into the community. The challenge is to banish from our hearts the winter of mistrust, fear, and hostility. Saying to a person, especially to the stranger, “Come in, Feel at Home,” is at the very heart of the Gospel. To welcome the stranger, as the woman did, is to welcome Christ himself. In the final analysis it is God who is our guest.

Columban Fr. Pat Raleigh provided this reflection.

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