Part 5: To Invite and Welcome Like Jesus
I think Jesus would’ve made good use of Evite in his earthly ministry. He seems to really enjoy parties. His first miracle was at a wedding reception (John 2), he liked to eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners (Mark 2, Matthew 8, Luke 5), and he got to know Zacchaeus while hanging out for the day (Luke 19). Jesus knows how to invite and welcome people to be with him and each other in a relaxed yet deeply meaningful way. Last week I said……….“imagine hosting a party like Jesus.” Perhaps I should have said, “imagine inviting yourself over to somebody else’s place like Jesus.” Because in all the events I mentioned, he gave other people the opportunity invite and welcome…and he showed up to make the party awesome!
How intentional are we as a parish about inviting people who don’t have a church home to come join us? And when new people show up, how intentional are we about giving them a warm welcome? As with all the other “holy discontents” I’ve written about these weeks, I think we’d have to say: we have done lots of good, and we could also do a lot more. It’s harder now to invite someone to church than ever before, it seems. Some people have had bad experiences of church and are understandably wary. The Mass is the source and summit of our faith and indescribably important, but it can also be a bit daunting for someone just taking the first steps toward exploring faith. And for a new person coming to a BIG church like St. Raphael, it can be easy to feel lost instead of personally welcomed.
As those of you who’ve been here in recent months have heard, we’ve begun Alpha to make a start at addressing some of these challenges. Alpha’s an easy invite any of us can extend to anyone: “Come have dinner, watch a short movie, and discuss big questions where you can say whatever you think!” At Alpha we strive to put on a great dinner party, and guests are welcomed to a table group where they can get to know a few people well. (Speaking of serving – which was last week’s topic – it’s impressive, the number of parishioners who are volunteering for Alpha and making it so inviting and welcoming – thank you!) But Alpha’s just, well – alpha! It’s just the beginning of ways we can better invite and welcome as a parish.
Jesus, give us the desire and strengthen us by the Holy Spirit to better invite and welcome like you…
Imagine if all the five “holy discontents” we’ve explored these weeks were to lead our parish to get 10 times better at all those things than ever before. Why would we not want to 1) invite and welcome people to an amazing life of 2) connecting, 3) praying, 4) deepening, and 5) serving like that?
Next weekend as we begin Lent I will preach at all of our weekend Masses in both Spanish and English. I’ll be sharing our parish vision statement, which many people have worked and prayed hard to articulate, and which I hope (in the Lord) will help focus us as a parish on the amazing more that Jesus is leading us to – the magis!
Fr. Phil Hurley, SJ