For many individuals and families alike, summer means travel. And summer travel may mean new visitors to our parish for weekend liturgies. Providing hospitality to strangers is a hallmark of Christian stewardship. In the Gospel of Matthew good stewards were commended for their hospitality: “I was a stranger and you welcomed me” (Matthew 25:35).
Saint Benedict directed his followers to receive guests and travelers as if they were Christ. Extending hospitality is especially important when it comes to welcoming visitors who may be attending Mass at our parish for the first time. There is a lot of anecdotal evidence suggesting that the ability of a first-time visitor to have a meaningful experience of Christ in the liturgy is directly impacted by the warmth of the welcome extended by the local worshipping community. When people say hello, the worship experience is enhanced. A warm welcome is part of evangelization, work necessary in a church’s mission to help people discover or renew their faith in Christ.
How do we treat the unknown person who walks by us in church, or who sits next to us at Mass? Do we take the initiative to greet them, smile, extend a warm handshake? Remember, we are Christ’s ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20). Our actions and reactions toward visitors at Mass communicate who we are and who we represent. Let us take time to welcome visitors to our parish this summer. Welcoming gestures, however small, will not only have a positive impact on visitors, they will make us more hospitable ambassadors of Christ.