The perfect host

| Alyssa Bormes | June 9, 2016 | 0 Comments


It’s been a year since my mother died, and there are certain things that remind me of her. The old copper coffee pot is quintessentially Karol.

As we divide her things among many siblings and grandchildren, I may or may not receive the coffee pot, but one thing that I have already received is her ability to clear away everything and have a cup of coffee with her friends.

Mom had the best coffee in town, and there was always a pot on the stove. Long before there was Starbucks or Caribou, there was Karol June. All sorts of people would stop by on any given day; her girlfriends were there most often. She was usually working in the kitchen or at the table, so she would clear a spot on one end of the table and then sit with her friends.

Sometimes I got to sit with them, and other times my mom would send me off. The conversations might be full of laughter, or include making plans for an event, or just be the quiet of friends talking. I came to realize over the years that there was also something very healing happening, times of baring the soul.

In Scripture, God is the perfect host, including in the garden, while feeding the 5,000 and at the Last Supper. This Sunday’s Gospel reading is a story of hospitality. A Pharisee hosts Jesus, but it is the woman who bathes his feet with her tears, then wipes them with her hair and anoints them with oil. The Pharisee who invited Jesus said to himself that if Jesus were really a prophet, he would know that the woman is a sinner.

Of course Jesus knows that she is a sinner; he knows that all of us are sinners. Yet, he still allows the woman to come close to him, to be hospitable to him. He allows all of us to do so.

Jesus then rebukes the host for not cleaning his feet, not kissing him, for not anointing his head with oil. These are all simple parts of hospitality — just as taking a coat, giving a seat and getting something to drink are to us today. This Pharisee was really trying to trap Jesus under the cover of hospitality; Jesus is the true host.

All of this makes me turn back to home. My mother had a manner of being a hostess; my father once said of her, “Karol cooks for somebody once, and we have a friend for life.” A part of this is true — she was an amazing cook, so who wouldn’t want to be her friend? But there was something in both of them: a welcoming, the attention to the immediate needs of a chair, a bite to eat and some coffee. Then the listening ear and the open heart, and souls being unburdened.

Hebrews 13:1 reminds us to “Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”

Whether or not the copper coffee pot will sit on my own stove isn’t the point. It is her gift of hospitality that she gave to me. She taught me to welcome friends and strangers, listen to them, and take some time to sit and have a cup of coffee with them. Somehow, she will always be in the next chair.

Bormes, a member of Holy Family in St. Louis Park, is the author of the book “The Catechism of Hockey.”

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Category: Everyday Mercies