"There’s always room for one more" sums up my father’s generous spirit. While some friends think this refers amusingly to the nine children my mother and he welcomed and raised, the story actually refers to a winter trip we took with ten of us traveling in one station wagon in the mountains of Wyoming. Coming upon a man stranded and out of gas in sub-zero temperature, my father stopped to help. The man looked inside the car and said he could wait for another car to hitch a ride to the next town to get some gas. "Nonsense," said dad. "There’s always room for one more." So we made adjustments, as we often did, to make room for him.
My dad was anything but stingy. He gave himself to others, and encouraged us to live generously. I think of him today when I read how Jesus reassures Thomas and the other disciples, "In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places." Jesus is always welcoming and including others. There is always room for one more.
This inclusiveness is echoed in the first reading from Acts of the Apostles when Paul preaches to the "children of the family of Abraham, and those others among you who are God-fearing." The Word of God is intended to reach the ends of the earth, not for a select few. Being on fire with the Living Word does not lend itself to being stingy.
We humans, though, have a propensity to divide, exclude, and separate. We tend to be stingy. Look at the tremendous loss of life during sectarian violence in different parts of the world. Listen to the debate on immigration reform. We discount the unborn, the incarcerated, and the homeless. Conservatives and Liberals demonize and ridicule each other believing they are the only repository of truth.
The disciples were not much better. They would try to get Jesus to send people away because it was getting dark or there was not enough food; to stop frequenting the homes of sinners; to call down fire on those preaching without formal credentials. Time and again, Jesus would help the disciples – and us – be a little less stingy. "Give them something to eat yourselves," and "Let the little children come to me."
The profoundly moving words of the Psalm today are spoken to each of us: You are my son. You are my daughter. This day I have begotten you. There is always room for one more -you, me, the hungry, the homeless, the rich, the poor, whites and blacks, Catholics and Hindus. To live a life of generosity is to welcome and include others. God is not stingy with His love. We shouldn’t be either.
Robert Hotz is a consultant with American City Bureau, Inc. and is the Director of The Passion of Christ: The Love That Compels Campaign for Holy Cross Province.