The Rule of St. Benedict, a sixth-century instruction on monastic living, is to Catholic monastic life what the Declaration of Independence or the U.S. Constitution is to American civic life — one of those bedrock documents that continues to inspire people for generations and generations. In the Rule, St. Benedict said this, “All guests who present themselves are to be welcomed as Christ, for he himself will say: I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”
The practice of Christian hospitality of course is not limited to monks, although they do it very well. We see the general importance of it in the second half of today’s Gospel, when Jesus simply says, “Whoever receives you receives me.”
That word “receive” is important. As we go beyond physical hospitality – providing water, opening a door, giving shelter – it’s still important to receive. In our inner lives we are likewise called to receive: the presence of God, to surrender, to empty ourselves, and it takes a deep quality of humility to do so. Remember how the risen Christ calls us to “Receive the Holy Spirit” and think about all that goes with that.
As we celebrate the 4th of July weekend, there are so many aspects of American life to be grateful for over these nearly 250 years. The great initiative and entrepreneurship of Americans is one, from the leaders of the American Revolution itself, to those who put men on the moon, helicopters on Mars and got a COVID-19 vaccine in our arms within one year of the virus’ arrival. Americans have historically and heroically made it happen.
Christians over the centuries have likewise made it happen in heroic ways, sometimes in their practice of citizenship in various countries. But we also have a great heritage of “letting it happen,” to be receptive, welcoming, humble, open to the power of the Holy Spirit overcoming our ego and ambition so that great things can be done for the glory of God. Over these next 10 days, as we celebrate both the 4th of July and the July 11 feast of St. Benedict, consider how you can deepen your receptivity to Christ with the world around you and within you.