I will undergo surgery tomorrow morning. So, this morning when I led our usual opening prayer at Manna House, I asked our guests and volunteers to pray for me.
The surgery will remove something in my lungs that does not belong there. The official term is a “pulmonary nodule.” It might be malignant or it might be benign. Either way, I will be in the hospital a day or two after the surgery. If malignant, the surgeon will take more of the lung tissue around the nodule, and there will be some follow up conversation, and possibly additional treatment. If benign, the initial recovery is the same.
After the prayer, I was surrounded by guests offering that they will keep me in their prayers. I need to put this another way, I was surrounded by love.
I thought later in the morning of this line from the Prayer of St. Francis, “For it is in giving that we receive.” In the fourteen years Manna House has been open, there has been a lot of giving, but I have received and continue to receive so much from our guests.
This is one of the amazing realities of offering hospitality. It is not a one way street. It is not the “haves” dispensing favors to the “have nots.” Rather, hospitality provides a sacred space in which each of us is freed to give and to receive.
Leonardo Boff, a Franciscan liberation theologian, has written, “there are two economies: one of material goods, and one of spiritual goods. The two are governed by different logic. In the economy of material goods, the more one gives away goods, clothes, houses, lands and money, the less one has.” But he adds, “in the economy of spiritual goods, when more is given, more is received; when one gives away more, one has more… Spiritual goods are like love: when they are divided, they multiply. Or like fire: as it expands it grows.” And he argues, “it is urgent that we vigorously incorporate the economics of spiritual goods into the economics of material goods… It makes more sense to share than to accumulate, to strengthen the good life of everyone, than to avariciously seek the individual good.”
This is the economy of manna. God freely provides. We share and do not hoard, and there is more than enough for everybody. In giving we receive.
This is what hospitality at Manna House coupled with justice seeks to do: sharing material goods in a way that respects human dignity so that we can all flourish, spiritually and materially.
This is what I know from hospitality shared at Manna House. When I (with the help of many other volunteers and donors) welcome our guests and give coffee, showers, clothing, and a place of dignity and respect, I receive love. Not the cheap love of superficial friendliness, but the costly love of sharing our lives, including our sorrows and our joys, our brokenness, and our shared need for human community, and for God’s grace.
So we have had weddings and memorial services at Manna House. We have been to hospital rooms and in jails visiting. Guests surrounded Kathleen with prayer when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010. I was surrounded with prayer when my Dad died seven years ago. We lifted up in prayer a volunteer and a guest this morning, both of whom have cancer. We prayed this morning for a guest who lost his partner to death. We share stories from our lives. We even argue politics and religion from time to time. All of this giving and receiving in the “spiritual economy” goes on as goods in the “material economy” are shared.
In this Trumpian age, in which the vile forces of disrespect of other human beings because of race, class, gender, and sexual orientation are strengthened and amplified, it is all the more important to create spaces in which we welcome each other as we are—children of God made in God’s image, committed to giving and receiving.
Tomorrow, I will be lifted up by the prayers of the guests of Manna House. Because of the giving I have been able to share at Manna House, I will receive those prayers, that love, and be blessed.
Prayer of St. Francis
Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.
O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love; For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life.