Many of you know that I was recently on vacation. My daughter took me on a cruise to the Yucatan Peninsula. I had never been on such an adventure before. She had cruised before and was able to pass on some tips that made the trip pleasant.
One of the things that we did during the evening meal was share the table with other passengers. We were placed with a family of four from Pennsylvania. One of their daughters was in high school, the other was in middle school. The girls had never been out of the country or on a cruise. During the first meal the conversation was lively and general. The girls did a fine job, but drifted onto topics that their parents thought questionable. Having worked with youth most of my life, I was not bothered by their candid remarks. There was nothing improper, just honest first impressions.
On the second evening the table conversation was stilted. I don’t know what coaching had been done, but it seemed the girls were to be seen and not heard. I thought it unfortunate. Our servers were from South Africa and the Czech Republic. Between them, my daughter and I, we were easy. Besides the parents obviously didn’t enjoy table conversation. I didn’t understand why they hadn’t requested a table of four. The silence was like an impenetrable fog.
Is hospitality a dying art? Has our infatuation with electronic devices stunted our ability to build relationships? Are we that fearful of strangers? Or maybe we have domesticated hospitality; we see it as a social grace rather than a spiritual discipline or holy event.
St. Benedict, an early church father, called for an open mind in his writing. He followed the example of Jesus who was an assault on every closed mind in Israel. To those who thought that illness was a punishment for sin, Jesus called for openness. To those who considered tax collectors beyond salvation, Jesus called for openness. To those who believed that the Messiah had to be a military figure, Jesus called for openness. Jesus called people to make room for the gospel; let grace and love break through the barriers of fear and prejudice.
Jesus received everyone. There were no put-downs or sarcasm. The love of God shattered barriers and the differences melted away, Jew and Gentile, slave and free, women and men (as well as children & youth) all came together as equals.
May the radical love of God be our example too.