Pope Francis just gave me an idea: I need a new Welcome Mat to kick off the Year of Mercy, which begins December 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.
Granted, I already have a mat, but it’s seen quite a few sneakers and sandals and sling-backs and stilletos. What once greeted guests with a cherry “Welcome!” has lost its “Come On In and Make Yourself at Home” luster. See what I mean? Ugh!
But Pope Francis has just reminded us to make our churches, and similarly the “domestic church” of our homes, into places of welcome. He wants us to throw open the door to welcome the stranger. And not only are we to let people in: The pope suggests that we go out, crossing our doorstep in the other direction to meet people where they’re at.
Speaking at the Wednesday General Audience on November 18, Pope Francis said:
“If the door of God’s mercy is always open, even so must be the doors of our churches, the love of our communities, our parishes, our institutions, our dioceses, for when they are, we can all go out to bring this mercy of God [to those who most need it].
The Jubilee Year recalls the great door of God’s mercy, but also the small doors of our churches – open to let the Lord in – or to let the Lord out, who is often the prisoner of our structures, our selfishness, and of so many things.”
So I think a new mat would be just the thing to help me remember my God-given mission of mercy and friendship.
Not just any old “Dust off your shoes” kind of mat. I need one that really makes the neighbors feel they’re important people who will be welcome visitors at our place. I need one like this:
Or perhaps a pineapple design, the traditional sign of “Welcome” in early Americans’ homes?this is kinda cool, in an artsy, “I’m so informal!” kind of way:
This “Sunflowers” motif hints at fresh flower vases in the dining room, candy dishes on the side table….
But then, “Just Don’t Expect Much” seems a bit more realistic:
You might consider dressing up your doorway, too, as we dress up our hearts, preparing to welcome the stranger. This is just a starting point. Next step: Chocolate chip cookies!