The holiday season is now in full swing. Many of us already have our plans for Christmas and New Year’s gatherings on the calendar. We have the dates for the office parties and tickets to our favorite Christmas pageants or performances. At this busy time of year, we often find ourselves with multiple requests from friends and family asking us to drop by. It really is a season of invitations. Some recent exchanges with friends and new acquaintances have me wondering if we realize just how important an invitation really is. Or do we take those invitations sitting on our desk or in our email — as well as the invitations we extend — for granted?
Recently, when I was co-hosting a women’s pilgrimage in Italy, I encouraged one of our pilgrims not to stay back at the hotel and to instead consider joining the group for dinner. This lovely sister, by her own admission, was at first reluctant to spend a lot of time with the rest of the group after the scheduled tours. She by nature is an introvert and gets somewhat drained, as she explained, by being around large groups of people without downtime to reflect. But I noticed along the way that she had much to contribute. Despite her introverted personality, she shared her knowledge of the Faith freely with the other women. She was joyful and made others feel the same. So when she told me, at one point, that she felt she needed to retreat to her room, I challenged her a bit: “You know, I really like you and like having you around. I really hope you join us for dinner. I think it would be good for you and for us.”
I just told her what I felt from the heart. It wasn’t anything special. I just wanted her to know that she was appreciated, was welcomed and was making a difference in the overall pilgrimage experience. A few hours later she showed up at the dinner and thanked me for encouraging her to step outside her comfort zone. She explained it was my “personal invitation” that prompted her change of plans. She also shared that she had such a great time that evening that she was going to do a better job at extending invitations to others in the future instead of just automatically retreating from social activity.
If we look at Jesus, we can see that He took this idea of invitation (or more specifically personal invitation) very seriously. We know from Scripture that in addition to speaking to the crowds on the hillsides of Galilee or along the seashore, He also had countless one-on-one encounters: the woman at the well, or the disciples referenced in John’s Gospel whom Jesus told to “come and see.” There is Zacchaeus, the tax collector in Luke’s Gospel. Zacchaeus was singled out from the crowd as he sat watching Jesus while sitting in a tree. In this case, Jesus actually invited himself to the tax collector’s home. But it was a personal invitation nonetheless, and as always with a mission of salvation.
As Christians we know that God is God and we are not. But we are called to be like Jesus, and Jesus is not only the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, He was and is the King of personal invitations. In the end it’s Jesus who does the saving. We are his hands and feet, his farmers, and at this time of year his carolers of Good News, by extending an invitation to maybe that Advent tea, Christmas concert, Christmas dinner or Midnight Mass, as well as responding to requests for our company. For those who have personal encounters in Christ, it’s life changing. Our extending or accepting an invitation this season may not be as dramatic. But it certainly is a start.
This column first appeared on OSV Newsweekly. To read Teresa’s latest OSV columns click here.