The Four Pillars of Parish Stewardship (part IV of VII)

11-15-2015Pastor's LetterMsgr. P. James Costigan

Hospitality — The Cornerstone of Stewardship The dictionary defines “hospitality” as: “the quality or disposition of receiving and treating guests and strangers in a warm, friendly, generous way.” From the standpoint of a Christian worldview, hospitality can be referred to as Christian kindness. In terms of stewardship, hospitality is an immensely important concept. Remember the “three Ts” of stewardship: time, talent and treasure? Well, there are also “four Ps,” the four pillars of stewardship – hospitality, prayer, formation and service. Interestingly enough, hospitality is mentioned first. Why? Because without hospitality, none of the other pillars will ever take hold. Hospitality is the cornerstone of stewardship because it opens the door to a person’s heart and allows them to receive joy, grace and love.

We see the effects of hospitality (and the lack thereof) time and time again throughout the Bible. Christ speaks of hospitality in Matthew's Gospel when He says, "When I was a stranger, you welcomed me" (25:35). In the Old Testament, the Israelites wander the desert for 40 years in search of hospitable environs. Even the Holy Family spent ample time searching for shelter before the birth of Our Lord.

It is safe to say hospitality is, and most likely has always been, a big deal to people everywhere. Modern-day hotels and hostels often use the image of a pineapple to advertise their special brand of hospitality. There's no doubt that in ancient times, the distant lights of an inn or tavern struck a chord of hope within weary travelers' hearts.

Over the years, decades and millenniums, the meaning of the word "hospitality" hasn't diminished. For Christians, the pres- ence of hospitality can mean the difference between calling others "guests" and "strangers." Guests are welcomed with open arms and warm smiles. Strangers aren't. Guests feel the genuine love present in a hearty "Welcome!" Strangers don't. Guests often return for second or third visits. Strangers don't.

At our own parishes, do we find ourselves surrounded by guests, or burdened by strangers? In many senses, hospitality is a mindset. The same person may be treated as guest at the church down the road and as a stranger here.

In Matthew's Gospel, Christ reveals a profound truth about hospitality. "When I was a stranger, you welcomed me..." In other words, "I used to be a stranger, but you fixed that when you welcomed me." It's a classic example of before and after. And all it took was a change of heart.

For stewardship to truly take hold within a parish, hospitality must become second nature. When a stranger visits our parish, welcome them as a guest. Who knows, maybe one day they'll pay us a second visit.

To be continued...