By Teresa Tomeo
Eye on Culture
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 down time 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 your around. I hope you really 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, 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, that personal invitation, very seriously. We know from Scripture that in addition to speaking to the crowds on the hillsides of Galilee or along he sea shore, 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 none the less 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 his declarers of the Good News.
For those who have those personal encounters in Christ, it’s life changing. Our extending or accepting an invitation may not be as dramatic. But it certainly is a start.
Teresa Tomeo is the host of “Catholic Connection,” produced by Ave Maria Radio and heard daily on EWTN Global Catholic Radio, Sirius Channel 130, and Channel 88.1 FM KFHC, Sioux City and KOIA, Storm Lake.