If you’re anything like me, being Catholic can seem to be a bit too, shall we say, abstract at times. I know there are rules I’m supposed to follow and sins I’m supposed to avoid. That’s all straightforward enough.
Less obvious, though, are things like “holiness” and “virtue” and “growing in my faith.” Like the whole “Love your neighbor” thing, for instance. What does that even mean?
What is love?
Sometimes it can seem like religious terms like “love” don’t have much practical, real-life meaning. It’s hard to know what I can actually do to “love” someone. Sure, I have an idea about how I might love a woman I’m dating or married to. But what about my neighbor? My classmates? My buddies? How am I supposed to “love” them?
It’s helpful, then, to realize that the “love” that we’re called to isn’t some abstract thing, or even necessarily a feeling you have for somebody. Instead, love is a verb.
Love is something you do.
When we talk about love for our neighbor, think of it as helping or caring for other people, especially when it’s not done out of necessity or gain but for their good.
Believe it or not, even something as basic as letting somebody crash on your couch can be an act of virtue. Hospitality can be a charitable act.
What is hospitality?
Anybody who’s ever worked at a bar or restaurant knows all about hospitality — and can also tell you that the hospitality industry is often more industry than it is hospitality, for better or for worse.
Hospitality takes its truest form when it comes with no strings attached — no salary, no expectation of repayment, not even a sense that I have to do this for you. Hospitality in its truest sense is done completely out of the kindness of one’s heart — or, in other words, completely out of charity.
We’ve all been there, one way or the other: after a night of barhopping, you let people crash at your place or maybe you crash at theirs. Friends don’t let friends drive drunk, after all.
You probably didn’t even think anything of it. But that, my friends, is a perfect example of living out the virtue of charity — through hospitality.
You could even take a step further and try to anticipate opportunities for hospitality.
Recently, I moved into a new townhome with a couple buddies that is significantly less spacious than what I’ve been used to the past few years. At first, I was fine with it, because we’re dudes and we’re fairly low maintenance — we’ve lived in dorms before, after all — and we’re saving cash. But it really hit me when my buddy Brandon visited from Omaha that I wasn’t able to roll out the red carpet quite like I was used to.
I don’t think he minded all that much, but I was kind of bummed that I couldn’t offer him more than a couch in the middle of our main living space, where he obviously wasn’t going to get much sleep, much less privacy. It’s already got me thinking about what kind of place I want to move in next, because I want to be able to be more hospitable to my friends who need a place to crash.
There was a time in my life when I considered religious things like “holiness” and “virtue” and “growing in my faith” to be not only abstract, but elusive — and burdensome.
But I now know that there’s plenty of spiritual growth to be found in the ordinary things in life, and, better yet, in the things I already enjoy doing. Like hosting a friend’s couch crash.