While not every home may have a designated “guest room,” most families have some kind of space or plan for how to host guests. In our home, our guest space is multi-functional. When we do not have one of our parents (our most frequent guests – hooray for grandparents!) staying with us, the guest room serves as a sewing/weaving/film scanning/3-D printer/violin practice/overflow storage room. That’s quite a lot for one room. Whenever I am preparing for someone to come stay, I usually end up in the middle of it and wonder, “Where am I going to put them with all the stuff in here!?”
No matter how multi-functional your guest space is, there are things you do when you know someone is coming. I can recall whenever my own grandmother would come to stay we always had to clean the bathroom. It didn’t matter if it had been cleaned the day prior, my mom always (at least it felt like always, she may say differently) had to have the bathroom clean. I have a little mental checklist I try to get through at least 24 hours before a guest arrives. It goes something like this:
- Clean the bathroom (surprised?)
- Dust the guest room
- Verify the sheets are clean
- Clear off the table as much as possible to allow for guest use
- Tidy room as much as possible, lament over how crammed it is, wish I had better storage solutions, try to cram the yarn boxes deeper into the closet, remember the closet doors won’t close because of the looms in the way, straighten the bed covers again because I can at least make that presentable, close the door and say it’s good enough.
It’s not perfect, obviously.
There’s another kind of guest I’d like to consider. So far, I’ve been thinking about the planned guest. What about the unplanned or spontaneous guest? What do you do when you child wants to have a playdate or you think it would be nice to have a family over for a weekend bbq? Depending on when you make those plans, you may or may not have time to overhaul your house.
When we lived in California, I dreaded having anyone over. I felt like our home was never clean enough, that I wasn’t prepared enough. I did not have a good system of cleaning and staying on top of things. I was easily overwhelmed with the prospect of hosting someone. I wanted to be the person who had it all together. Standing on the corner talking with a neighbor, playing at the park with a friend, the facade could stand. But to come into our home it would quickly crumble – at least from my perspective. I am a little sad to look back at that time, to see my lack of confidence in who I was and that I was enough, even if my home was quite less than magazine worthy (spoiler alert, it still isn’t magazine worthy). I know there are some friendships that I did not cultivate as I could have because of these doubts.
Back in 2010, the English version of the Roman Missal underwent a translation overhaul. One big change came during the Eucharistic Prayer. After singing the Lamb of God, we kneel. The priest elevates the Body and Blood of Jesus as says, “Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb.” In the old translation, we said, “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you. Only say the word and I shall be healed.” Today, this response has changed to mirror the words of the Roman centurion from Matthew 8:5-8 who said, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof. Only say the word and my servant will be healed.” The faith of the centurion was so great, Jesus healed his servant on the spot, not needing to go be physically with him.
When we echo the words of the centurion, we are placing ourselves before Jesus, asking Him to heal us even in our brokenness. Even though our homes and hearts are not perfect, our checklists not complete to welcome him. We acknowledge our unworthiness. St. Paul says it more eloquently than I ever could: “But God proves His love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). And again, “All have sinned and are deprived of the glory of God. They are justified freely by His grace through the redemption in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:23-34).
Jesus does not say, “Get it together, then I’ll come over.” Yes, we are sinners. We are broken. But we are not lost. Jesus is the best kind of guest if we just let Him in. He will help us with our daily tasks, He will encourage us when times are tough, and no matter the mess, He will never leave us in our neediness. It doesn’t matter whether we’ve cleaned under the beds or not.
We are entering Holy Week. We’ve gone through most parts of our homes, considering how the function both physically and spiritually. As we transition to these holiest of days, the Church invites us into her home in a unique way. For each of the days of Triduum (Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday), once a year liturgical experiences are celebrated. We are entering the heart of our faith, the Paschal Mystery which is Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection.
Every year we celebrate these sacred mysteries. Jesus didn’t wait for the world to be ready before He came to save us. Every year we are invited to delve deeper into this gift of salvation, to invite Jesus to a more intimate relationship within us. Every day we have the opportunity to welcome Jesus into our home, but these days of Holy Week are exceptional.
This week, instead of focusing on our physical homes, take the time you have been using with these reflections to spend time on your spiritual home. Have you invited Jesus into your heart? Take Him on a tour of the work you’ve done these past weeks. How have you grown? Where do you need His mercy, His strength or His tenderness? Think about the Triduum days from last year. What liturgies did you attend? Stretch yourself and plan to attend one more than last year. Embrace these days and the spiritual drama that is unfolding. These days are one big story and we are invited to enter into it.