Thank you all for your prayers these past five days as I was on retreat. I had a blessed time with the Lord and with my brother priests. I was able to recharge the spiritual batteries and go deeper into my relationship with the Lord which is the goal of any retreat. If you have not made a retreat in a while, I highly recommend doing one as soon as possible (and no, serving an Emmaus retreat or serving a retreat you have already attended does not count).
One of the themes that our retreat director kept bringing up and that kept coming up in my own prayer was the theme of hospitality in our Church. As a Church we need to excel in this. We need to be more welcoming to those who walk through our doors and not be so judgmental. Christ welcomes all. (N.B. I am not talking here about reception of the Eucharist which is totally different and is something that is between each person and their confessor.) The very fact that I had to clarify with that last parenthesis shows how judgmental some in our Church have become. The hospitality of the Church must be so extraordinary that all feel welcome into the house of God. Notice how Pope Francis has welcomed the homeless, those ignored by society, to the Vatican recently and how a homeless man that slept near St. Peter's Square was given a funeral in the Vatican. As Christians, we should not look down on anyone. That is the theme of today's gospel where the Pharisee prays while looking down on the tax collector "O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest humanity--greedy, dishonest, adulterous--or even like this tax collector (Luke 18:11." While the tax collector did not dare look up to God and just said: "have mercy on me a sinner." We should always look at others as more important than ourselves. We should look at others as Jesus as among us and look at them the same way our God looks at us. And this is another thing I took from my retreat: do we realize how much God delights in us despite our sinfulness? He delights in us all. Let us love each other and delight in each other in the same way.