ARE YOU GOOD AT WELCOMING AND GREETING? One of the essential dimensions of cultivating the social virtues is the capacity to both greet and welcome individuals, as well as groups. Most would agree that the first impression we have of another leaves a profound impact for good or for bad.
On the negative side, when somebody ignores us, overlooks us, snubs us, or even glares at us ending with a sarcastic and derisive smile, it truly cuts us to the heart and can leave an indelible wound. Expecting a warm greeting and receiving quite the contrary, or even being completely ignored, can result in anger, resentment and even a desire for revenge in the depths of our heart.
Therefore, as authentic followers of Christ, should we not make a concerted effort on our part to improve and upgrade our greetings and welcoming attitudes? Especially in the realm of apostolic efficacy, a warm greeting can open a heart to follow Christ, whereas a snub and cold stare can shut the door to Christ.
This may catch many of us by surprise, or even shock us, but there are many Biblical passages dealing directly with greeting and welcoming others. Let’s contemplate a few.
1. THE ARCHANGEL GABRIEL AND MARY. (Lk 1:26-38)
Of all of the greetings in the history of the world, the Archangel Gabriel’s greeting to the Blessed Virgin Mary is the most prominent, as well as significant: “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you.” This greeting would culminate in Mary’s consent to conceiving the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity in her most pure womb. “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. (Jn 1:14) In fact, every time we pray the Hail Mary, we renew this Angelic salutation. For that reason, the technical name for the Hail Mary is actually “The Angelic salutation.”
2. THE VISITATION. (Lk 1:39-56)
A rapid sequel to the Archangel’s greeting in the Annunciation to Mary is Our Lady’s quick response, as she moves in haste to visit her elderly cousin Elizabeth who is with child. Upon arriving, Mary greets Elizabeth, most likely with the Hebrew manner of greeting: Shalom —Peace be with you! Saint Elizabeth responds: “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb. Who am I that the Mother of my Lord should come to me? At the sound of your greeting the baby in my womb leapt for joy. Blessed are you for your firm belief that the word of the Lord would be accomplished in you.”
3. ZACCHAEUS, CHIEF TAX-COLLECTOR OF JERICHO. (Lk 19:1-10)
In the case of this short tax-collector who is ready and willing to climb a tree to see Jesus, we witness another greeting and welcome. Almost always Jesus was formally greeted and welcomed into homes. In the case of Jesus, He actually invites Himself into the home of Zacchaeus, and the little man joyfully welcomes Him. Overflowing with joy Jesus responds: “Today salvation has arrived at this home.” How often has Jesus knocked on the door of our heart seeking entrance? How often have we failed to open the door?
4. SAINT MATTHEW. (Mt 9:9-13)
Jesus approaches the tax-collectors’ post where Matthew is seated. Peering into the eyes and penetrating the depths of the soul of this Publican (tax collector), Jesus says two words: “Follow Me!” Without a moment of hesitation, Matthew accepts the invitation and leaves all that he has to follow the Master. That very night Matthew prepares a banquet for Jesus, inviting many of his friends—tax collectors and sinners, so they too can meet the Lord. Matthew greets Jesus and welcomes Him into his home with overflowing joy!
5. BETHANY: MARY AND MARTHA AND LAZARUS. (Lk 10:38-42)
Among the most dear friends of Jesus during the three years of His Public Ministry were Mary, Martha, and their brother Lazarus. Living close to Jerusalem in the town of Bethany, they would often invite Jesus and welcome Him as their guest. Polar opposites in temperament, Martha and Mary served Jesus each in their own unique manner. Busy and active to her very core, Martha practiced the most minute details of hospitality. Quiet and more reserved and contemplative by nature, Mary loved to sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to Him, speak to Him, and simply be present to Him as a friend.
The above are five classical examples of different Biblical personalities and their attitude in both greeting and welcoming Jesus. We might even call these Biblical figures: THE SHALOM COMMITTEE! (PEACE BE WITH YOU—SHALOM!)
Let us step back and examine our own lives, the people we meet and the opportunities that God presents to us to exercise the Apostolate of Shalom, the greeting and welcoming Club!
6. FAMILY MEMBERS.
If you are a homemaker, as well as wife and Mother, you most likely have the golden opportunity every day to both greet and welcome family members home. Welcoming your husband with a hug, a smile, and a refreshing drink can turn his long and tiring day into an oasis of peace. Also, receiving and welcoming your children with a joyful smile, milk and cookies, and words of encouragement can make a world of difference from the tough, aggressive and cold external social milieu they encounter every day.
7. GREETING FRIENDS AND ACQUAINTANCES.
A simple question for your examination? Upon seeing a friend or acquaintance approach, do you wait for them to greet you? Or do you make an effort to take the initiative and greet them first? Taking the initiative, there is real virtue practiced in this assertive approach. Humility, courtesy, and even charity emanates from the first to greet! Who knows, maybe you can even win a new friend by taking the initiative to greet first with a winsome smile!
8. GREETING THE HOME-BOUND, THE SICK AND THE LONELY.
One of the most pleasing gestures that we can do for others, and so pleasing to God, is to go out of our way to visit those who are sick and abandoned, lonely and depressed. A greeting, a smile, a kind word, a holy card, a hug or embrace can pull those lonely persons dwelling in the valley of tears into the light of God’s joy and happiness! Jesus will reward us: “Whatever you do to the least of these brothers/sisters of mine, you do to me.” (Mt 25:40)
9. GREETING JESUS IN THE CHURCH.
Another noteworthy greeting is towards Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in the context of the Church. This can be done in two ways: Eucharistic visits and Eucharistic receptions! One of the first short poems that I learned as a child was the following: “Whenever I see a Church I stop to make a visit, so that when I die the Lord won’t say, ‘Who is it?’” Upon entering a Catholic Church, we should immediately draw close to the Tabernacle, the home of Jesus in the Church, and greet Him. First, we make a genuflection towards the Lord of Lords and the King of Kings. Next, we greet Him and welcome Him by opening up our heart to Him in fervent prayer. Then of greatest importance, we participate fully, actively and consciously in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The culminating moment is to greet Jesus and warmly welcome Him into the very depths of our heart in Holy Communion. This Eucharistic welcome and greeting is by far the most important in this world. May we strive to improve and upgrade our welcome and greeting of our Eucharistic Lord!
10. HEAVENLY WELCOME COMMITTEE.
Now, as a conclusion, if during the short course of our earthly existence, we have sincerely striven to be that kind, warm, attentive, greeting and welcoming person towards our family, our neighbors, the sick and lonely, even strangers, and most important, towards Our Eucharistic Lord in the Mass and in Adoration, then one day we will have our own welcoming committee—Jesus and His Heavenly Mother Mary, surrounded by the angels and saints, will welcome us into the halls and eternal banquet of Heaven to rejoice with them forever and ever!