At our house, the gift of a guest is something we try not to waste. What that looks like? Something that has taken me a number of years to learn and embrace, and something for which I am eternally grateful for the virtue and patience of my wife as "the one who teaches" and "the one who puts up with my lazy self." First, the house needs to be clean, because hospitality offered means providing a clean, orderly, warm and welcoming space. Someone coming into our home should find it ready and prepared for their arrival. Second, the provision of good food and drink. One of the things I love about our household is that a meal is never just throwing a few things together. Serving a meal to a guest means thinking about them, asking what they like and then working up a menu that lets them know that they were thought of in the process...and that the result is a way to honor them while at the same time celebrating their presence in this life.
Anyone who has tasted my wife's cooking knows that feeling: I have seen her whip up chicken and dumplings for families as they kept vigil over a loved one in hospice. I have helped her cook up a "pumpkin gooey cake" for teenagers we lived hours away from just for them, because they asked. Together, we have cooked holiday meals, summer barbecues, simple meals of steamed mussels and bread or even just a pot of soup....but each time, it was with the intent to offer to others both honor as guests and gratitude that we are able to receive them and celebrate them in this life. The reward? Empty plates, and faces wrinkled by smiles instead of being creased by grief or anxiety.
When I started brewing beer, I relearned that lesson I noted above that I continue to learn from my wife...when we do something, it is better to do it for others, and for the other's joy, comfort and well being. Making up a batch of home brew is a lot of fun, and I love the process. Tasting beer that I have made is a source of great joy (when it works out!); but the sublime pleasure of this hobby is getting the opportunity to share that beer with people, with guests, with neighbors, with friends and family. I love to watch their faces when they taste these creations. The surprise and joy of a good brew, and the opportunity to learn and grow when something isn't quite to their taste. How can I find the right beer for you! I often tell people, when we take beer to their homes, to save the bottles and send them home with me, "Because, you know....they're magic...when they come back they refill themselves for another time!"
Gardening has been another way that we give back from the abundance we experience in our lives. Sadly, this year has not been one in which I was particularly successful...more from distraction than anything else....but when we are on our game, we wind up growing much more than we need, and giving away much more than we consume. Last year, that meant piles of tomatoes, peppers and root vegetables. This year, it was pretty much limited to zucchini. In light of what I noted as strengths of our household above, I also exhibit my short fall, and resolve to do better with next year's garden.
ALL of that goes into the point I hope to make today about how deeply I feel called to model and live more fully a life that is forged in that attitude and offering of the abundance that Laura and I experience in our lives, and how we can make an oblation of it to the glory of God as a blessing to our community. Frankly, I too often wind up seeing how far short of ideal I really am with regard to being a good steward of what I have been given; but I am trying, growing and learning.
So, the deep question...do you share these impulses? When someone is coming to your home, do you make that extra effort? Do you work on learning and trying new ways to be able to share/give/offer to your neighbor in this life some small share of the bounty you have received from our creator? It doesn't take much. One of the most profound experiences of a fine meal served to a guest I have ever received in my life occurred during a visit to a boy's orphanage in Honduras. The meal, breakfast, was a half cup of rice, a three-inch piece of roasted plantain and a cup of white rice accompanied by a cup of sweet, milky coffee. What made it amazing? That it was shared with a spirit of abundance...it was a feast for the boys (the poorest of orphans, scooped up from the streets and given homes, educations and hope), and so it was for us.
So, do you share these impulses? Do you experience gratitude that even though resources are meager in this life for all of us, there always seems to be away to make a feast happen....even when it is just a bit of beans, rice and plantain?
You might find a deeper resolve now to see what you have, and what you offer, as coming from a place of abundance. If so, then I rejoice. If so, then I ask your prayers that I continue to learn how to offer that same blessing back to the world, the Church and to God. If so, then I ask you to pray for a deeper faith for us all...so that we can learn to rejoice, give, celebrate, offer and receive in such a way that we might even learn to forget the definition of "scarcity" one day. For after all, what place can scarcity hold when our hearts are just that full of the abundance of the ABUNDANT love of God?