Our son’s college roommates don’t have anywhere to go for Christmas, because their parents live too far away. I want to invite them to our Christmas dinner, but Terri says, “No way!”
She says: It’s the only time our family is all together
Christmas is my favorite holiday – and it’s the only time we are all together as a family. I know it sounds selfish to Phil, but I really don’t want strangers here during this special time.
What do they do?
Suppose you lived in Bethlehem 2,000 years ago and a stranger, far from his home traveling with his very pregnant wife, came knocking on your door asking for food and shelter? Wow, it’s the first-ever Christmas Eve, and, yes, we’re laying a trip on you here!
Every family should care for needy people, which includes college students far from home. As Pope St. John Paul II put it, “in a special way the Christian family is called upon to practice hospitality, imitating Christ’s example.” (Familiaris Consortio, 44)
Of course, there needs to be a balance. It’s also important for families to protect their family life, which can sometimes be threatened even by generous ideas. Occasionally even a good intention needs to be sacrificed for a greater good.
So what to do? For starters, Phil and Terri should see generosity-to-others and preservation-of-family-life not as fundamentally opposed, but as complementary. They are to protect their family life not from generosity to others, but rather for it.
For example, if their family life is somehow seriously suffering, then maybe this wouldn’t be the right time to welcome a stranger, not even for a dinner. But keep in mind also that sometimes even a hurting family’s shared act of generosity to someone else in need can serve as the very occasion of their own healing.
Bottom line: every family, whether hurting or healthy, should love one another not only for their own sake, but also so that they might better love the stranger. Just as God wanted Phil and Terri’s original love for one another to spill over into a love that would welcome others (their children), so does he want their family love to spill over into a love that welcomes others from outside of their family.
Pope St. John Paul II summarized the mission of every family: “to guard, reveal and communicate love.” Yes, Phil and Terri must guard the love their family members have for one another. But they are to guard it not so as to hoard it, but rather that they might reveal and communicate it all the more abundantly.