Hospitality and Gratitude, Non-violence and Meekness
Hospitality and Gratitude
The lack of spiritual depth, pervading sense of alienation, superficiality and inauthenticity mentioned in the first virtue of depth brings with it a sense of homelessness. This may be the manifestation of the ill effects of our globalized culture. There is a heightened sense of suspicion among one another. Religious missionary community is not an exception to this globalized social phenomenon. Prof. Gallares rightly commented, “Our planet is in fact suffering from a crisis of homelessness. In our global village there is a vast displacement of all sorts.
People fleeing repressive governments, poverty, ethnic cleansing and all other forms of conflicts, prejudice and persecution. In Asia alone there are millions of indigenous or tribal people throughout the vast region who are living in social, cultural and political isolation from the dominant population and even from their own governments. Many of them are displaced as their lands are taken over by governments and multinational corporations. It is in this context that we consider Hospitality and gratitude as a contemporary Virtue.
As religious and bearers of the good news, we are called to give witness to God’s hospitality in welcoming strangers and those who do not share our culture and religion. Can we be sign of God’s vast home (St. Francis of Assisi modeled religious house as a house without “boundaries” welcoming all to his house) by our kindness in welcoming guests or strangers into our religious houses? In fact hospitality and gratitude come together in our contemporary times. To be hospitable is not to limit our interests to the narrow confines of a particular culture, group of people, community or nationality. As religious we are called to regard no one as a stranger. All belong to God’s vast home. For this we need a wide openness of the Kingdom in which all may belong and feel at ease with one another.
Scripture: Hospitality is a Biblical virtue although it is a gift for all; the ideal that this virtue proposes to us must be seen in communities and groups. Fr. Cristo Rey says that it is also an ethical virtue which is valued increasingly in our time.
Meditate on the hospitality of Abraham to three young men who visited him. Our Lord commanded us to offer hospitality when He said, “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat; I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink; I was a stranger and you invited me in” (Mat. 25:35.) In fact we cannot be hospitable unless we are truly at home with ourselves and with one another. A deep awareness of who we are before God is essential to welcome God in others. These dual virtues invite us not to be afraid of one another, instead welcome others with kindness gratefulness. This is possible only when we realize the other is a gift for you, prepared wrapped and sent by God.
In the Judeo-Christian revelation which is the basis for our faith is very sensitive to the virtue of hospitality. God welcomed the first human couple in His Garden of Eden. He worked for His guests “bringing forth all kinds of trees…” He offered food and dress to them (Gen.2:8-9; 15-17). In this way, Adam and Eve were guests of God in the Garden of Eden. Later Abraham and the people who were in Egypt were considered guests of God: “the earth is mine and you are foreigners and my guests” (Lev25:23). Icons of hospitality in the Old Testament were: Abraham who welcomes the three men, the widow of Zarephath and Elijah in mutual hospitality; the prostitute of Jericho, who welcomes the envoys of Joshua etc.
In the context of today: Hospitality speaks to us of the relations established between a guest and the person who welcomes the guest. In this mutual relation, one cannot exist without the other. A guest can be any person coming at any time. Hospitality opens us to everybody. Each guest represents the strangers. The guest can be a God according to Biblical traditions (Heb.13.2). The guest is full of ambiguity: he is like an uncertain place in which something important for us is put into play. His arrival is unpredictable and uncontrollable. The host must be always prepared. Each encounter of hospitality is unique and entails attention to the concrete person. The opposite to hospitality is violence. The context where we live could be well explained in this way. In our present conditions, the experiences of the stranger take place more frequently. We live in multicultural societies. Tolerance towards the diverse and strange thing is requested from all of us. Our education and formation must enhance the value of hospitality, against the privileges of individualism
Questions for personal reflections:
1. Do I value hospitality as a virtue in my relationship with others especially in my religious community?
2. How do I look at and relate with people who are different from me? To what extent are there in me or in my group hostile and violent attitudes in front of the diverse, different or strange?
3. What can we do to grow as a person and a community in this virtue of hospitality? What should be done for our community to be presented to be a friendly community to the people around?
4. Jesus is the sacrament of God that welcomes us, serves us and cures us. He recovers our dignity; He washes our feet and dies for us. Jesus is an authentic way and example of hospitality Jesus also welcomes the hospitality of human beings- the hospitality of Mary in her womb, the hospitality of some Pharisees, the hospitality of Martha and Mary, Zacheus. Am I really Jesus’ disciple in this respect of hospitality?
Suggestions for Action: Fix your attention on the biblical texts about hospitality. Which Biblical person (in number 4) calls your attention more?
How do you interpret the parable of the Good Samaritan? The question, who is my neighbor?
Prayer Program: The prayer meeting could be arranged with a personal reflection on the question who is my neighbor? People can share how each one feel in front of a stranger. Our sharing could be developed to another question, “Am I a stranger to my brothers in the community?” and the reasons behind it. At the end of the prayer, please discover an act of hospitality that you need to develop in your community life.
Non-violence and Meekness
These two virtues stand as a counter-cultural attitude against a world mired by violence, injustice and a culture of death. Violence has always been with us throughout human history. The images our world today as projected by television and the media affirms very well this fact as Violence is used to settle scores and grievances. We human being unconsciously seems to believe that wars could lead to peace on earth. Consequently wars were and still are undertaken in the name of God. How do we begin removing distrust and fear and replace it with hospitality and gratitude? In the life of our holy founder, we see how he was attacked even violently and how he reacted with a Christian attitude of non violence and meekness. (Read the autobiographical note by St. Claret on how he was attacked by different ways and how he reacted to those attackers)
In our context: People in all walks of life are much concerned the continuous violence existing in our human society. Leaders of many nations at war look for advice to overcome violence from religious circles. In fact, Nonviolence is the law of human race and is infinitely greater than and superior to brutal force and violence. This virtue is obtainable only to a person who possesses a living faith in the God of Love and equal love for others. The virtue of nonviolence and meekness becomes a real power to all children, young men, and women or grown up people. When a person accepts nonviolence as a philosophy or law of life like Mahatma Gandhi, it must pervade the whole being and not just be applied to isolated acts. The courage to act nonviolently can only come from the belief that God is present in the hearts of all and that there should be no fear in the presence of God. The awareness of God’s omnipresence also means respect for the lives even of those we label as opponents or enemies.
Scripture: The Gospel shows of the nonviolence and meekness of Jesus. Jesus’ meekness is born out of his being humble in spirit. Hence nonviolence is impossible without humility or meekness. A biblical understanding of the cross leads necessarily to a nonviolent stance. The Sermon on the Mount calls us to turn the other cheek and love our enemies in imitation of the heavenly father who bestows the gifts of nature to all-friend and foe – alike (Mt. 5:43-48). The divine love for enemies is manifested clearly when the crucified Jesus prayed for his executioners saying, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do”. Paul asserted this reality in other words saying, “While we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son” (Rom 5: 8-10)
In our world, we as followers of Jesus Christ are called to live this contemporary virtue. Imitating the meek and humble Jesus in action by non violent way of relating with one and with others. “Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth” (Mt. 5:5). To be meek is to seek God’s glory, rather than our own, by using the talents and gifts God has given us.
Questions for personal reflections:
1. Do I consider non violence and meekness as contemporary virtue from my heart?
2. Is there any time in my life when I considered meekness and nonviolence as a sign of weakness?
3. When do usually I lose control of myself? Are there moments of losing my emotional balance? And what do I do to overcome it? What means do I use to overcome them? Constructive or destructive means?
4. Is there any nonviolent, meek and humble heroes (saints) in my life?
5. Do I use nonviolent communication as a method of dialogue and communication? Do I hurt others through the words I choose in speaking? Do I often regret on the words I chose in communication?
Suggestions for Actions:
Nonviolence and meekness are virtues that a person needs to cultivate. One has to educate oneself in this line. This education is completed when one starts holding them as a philosophy of life. Hence studying and practicing nonviolent communication with a scientific mind is a good suggestion for action. Practicing yoga (not just the hatha yoga -physical exercises- rather the unity of mind and body through yogic meditation) is another practical method to remain grounded with ones inner being. It can alleviate our ill feeling and grudge towards others as only in the depth of our heart we feel compassion, unity and oneness with others.
Prayer program: Explain how to send vibrations of love to a person with whom you find difficult to relate and communicate. It could be practiced in the atmosphere of a community where we can invite people to identify personally the persons to whom you want to send vibrations of love in silence and from the depth of your heart. When it becomes a regular practice one becomes more meek and humble to continue praying for others and be able to look at others with a compassionate heart.
-Fr. Manuel Ezhaparampil cmf