The Inn of Hospitality and the Bountiful Table are images that John Chrysostom uses to speak out our experience of church. Before baptism the inn has doors hanging loosely on broken hinges; it is a dangerous, chaotic place. The inn of the church is one of gracious people, safe and peaceful, its doors open easily to where we can share bountiful gifts at a table that groans under the weight of such abundant blessing.
We reverently receive the mystical bread. We do not rush this acton of taking, speaking Amen, and placing it in our mouths. We savor the vivifying bread of life. Likewise we take the holy cup, speak Amen, bring it to our lips, and drink. We enjoy the cup that inebriates our sprit with joy.
Those who come to Jesus will be drawn to the Father and will have everlasting life. Jesus says, ‘I am the bread of life’, ‘I will give my flesh for the life of the world’. Jesus has spoken of being raised up, of his approaching ‘hour’, and of the conflict between light and darkness. He will give us his flesh for food when he breaks bread at last supper meal and gives himself over to its fulfillment on Calvary when his body is broken and his blood poured out. This is the food of the bounteous table. The inn of hospitality calls out, ‘come to me all you who are hungry and all you who thirst’.
We may find it challenging to explain the beautiful words of John, but when we have eaten at the bounteous table at the inn of hospitality our actions say it all. We want to lead the way for the hungry and thirsty. Today is the feast of Edith Stein, St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, OCD. A scholar, Jewish convert and Carmelite religious. Edith died in Auschwitz with her sister and several religious who were Jewish converts as a reprisal for the Dutch bishops speaking out against the Nazis. A witness describes her standing in an open railway car packed with those going ‘East’. It was late at night in a marshaling yard when the soldier on duty saw her as a commanding presence sheltering those in the train and asking him to get water for them. He did, and did not forget that experience. Edith went to her death having said to her sister, ‘let us go with our people’. She knew Jesus in the Eucharist and in these steps to her death could share him. She led her companions to the Inn of Hospitality and shared the refreshment from the bounteous table. He is the living bread, the life of the world.
Today in the Passionist family is the ordination of Emery Kibal, CP as bishop of Kole in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Emery lived at the Passionist Monastery in Jamaica, NY, working in a neighboring parish and interested in pursuing studies in liturgy. His appointment came as a surprise. His ministry will be in the heart of a very poor country and it is an assignment that is not only difficult for many reasons but also dangerous. He is asked to be in an innkeeper in the Inn of Hospitality indeed, one on the margins of where people travel, but none the less where people hunger and thirst for the Bread of Life.
God asks of us to share the Bread of Life in such different circumstances! Let us find in his generosity strength to be gracious, inviting, self-giving, hopeful and humble.
Fr. William Murphy, CP is the pastor of Immaculate Conception parish in Jamaica, New York.