Why do the last weeks of vacation seem to speed up as soon as the end comes in sight? Our hours are filling up with school preparations now, much to the dismay of my youngest son (and last student!). There's a couple more sleepovers planned, some more nights by the fire, some late night movies with the young adults (who can stay up sooo much later than I can these days) and as much hammock time as we can manage before reality sets in.
~ Last night an elderly neighbor came to dinner. He's shared dinner with us several times now and he is at the age where his stories pile up on each other and loop around again and again. While he talked, I had to consciously remember St Benedict's teaching on hospitality:
"All guests who present themselves are to be welcomed as Christ...All humility should be shown in addressing a guest...Great care and concern are to be shown in receiving poor people and pilgrims, because in them more particularly Christ is received..."
How easy it is to be in a hurry, to be inwardly impatient and wearied by others - and to feel justified in doing so.
St Benedict told his monks to greet a guest with a "bow of the head or by complete prostration of the body...Christ is to be adored because he is indeed welcomed in them."
I am challenged by the idea that Christ brings people to our doors, our lives, and expects us to honor them and meet them with the same intentional, attentive love we would give to Him. Despite the rush and press of our culture, we have all the time in the world to love well. Perhaps the greatest challenge is to be satisfied with loving the ones He has actually brought to us, rather than dreaming about our noble responses to imaginary others.
There is grace enough for today, my friends, enough for today.
"To listen is very hard, because it asks of us so much interior stability that we no longer need to prove ourselves by speeches, arguments, statements, or declarations. True listeners no longer have an inner need to make their presence known. They are free to receive, to welcome, to accept.
Listening is much more than allowing another to talk while waiting for a chance to respond. Listening is paying full attention to others and welcoming them into our very being. The beauty of listening is that those who are listened to start feeling accepted, start taking their words more seriously and discovering their true selves. Listening is a form of spiritual hospitality by which you invite strangers to become friends, to get to know their inner selves more fully, and even dare to be silent with you." ~ Henri Nouwen