I’ve been known to call myself a spiritual pilgrim, but I realized over the weekend that I’m actually pretty much of a homebody.
When I travel to an unfamiliar location—even for a joyous occasion—it tends to set my nerves on edge. Often I become short with my companions, demanding clear-cut directions (or upbraiding them for advice that comes a tick too late)…even though they’re no more familiar with the surroundings than I am.
GPS helps, a little. But I’ve noticed that the folks in the back seat often talk OVER the GPS lady…and THAT peccadillo of theirs annoys me, too. So after a few hours on the road, I sometimes wonder why I ever try to go anywhere. Why not stick close to home…where there’s not a surprise or frustration around every bend?
This weekend, though, my extended family and I were treated to some world-class hospitality in Omaha, Nebraska. And I have to say, it felt good. It felt REALLY good.
The occasion was my nephew’s wedding to a beautiful lass whose family hails from that fine city. To say that they rolled out the welcome mat for us would be something of an understatement: In fact, the locals treated us like royalty, sponsoring buffets…cocktails…luncheons…dinners…more cocktails…all the while, providing shuttle busses to every event.
Early on in the weekend, I knew something special was happening. My travel-based frustrations were simply melting away, soothed by a steady stream of gracious hospitality. Nor was this fact lost on me: The Church marked the feast of St. Benedict during our time in Omaha. Benedict, known for – among many spiritual gifts – his insistence on hospitality.
‘In the reception of the poor and of pilgrims the greatest care and solicitude should be shown,’ Benedict wrote in his famous Rule, ‘because it is especially in them that Christ is received.’
It is a wonderful thing, I realized, to be on the receiving end of such hospitality. And maybe that’s reason enough to want to expand my geographic horizons every now and again.
Perhaps we all need to hit the road, to become actual pilgrims rather than metaphorical ones, so that we learn to rely less on our own knowledge and talents. In the process, we might also learn to see the Christ in us that our hosts so fervently hope to see.
For, as Jesus notes in today’s Gospel: ‘Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.’
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy One.