What if "the other" was the Lord coming to you?
In our lives, there are people we spontaneously find sympathetic, as well as those we find unpleasant. There are those whose friendship we willingly seek, and those who leave us completely cold. There are those we judge favorably, whom we label “nice people,” and those who, no matter what they do, are simply on our blacklist.
And then there are those we envy. We just can’t help it. They have the qualities we lack; they move in the circles we’d like, but don’t. They have a whole host of advantages over us, physical as well as material. Envy gnaws away at us. Try as we may, we can’t stop thinking about them, comparing ourselves to them, imagining ourselves in their shoes. From one moment to the next, we’re either infuriated by them, or we run ourselves down in our own minds to the point of crippling ourselves.
But what if all these people were being sent by God, for us to welcome into our hearts?
Every encounter is a confrontation with a new mystery
There was a time when children were taught the virtue of hospitality, to leaving the door open to offer shelter to someone who’s lost, of keeping a place ready at the table to welcome a poor man who comes knocking at the door. Today, children are taught to be suspicious. We tell them there’s nothing more dangerous than to trust someone they don’t know or, even worse, to welcome them in. Before long, we find ourselves mistrusting everyone. And because we no longer trust anyone, it’s considered a virtue to surround ourselves with a vacuum. But contrary to popular thinking, cutting oneself off is not making peace. It’s maintaining a state of “cold war.” Rejecting others, just like using them, isn’t a Gospel attitude.
The proper attitude is one of openness to the presence of others. It’s true that every newcomer who enters our life is both a threat and a promise. If we’re not careful, we begin being suspicious of one another, even rejecting each other. We react like a dog whose fur bristles at the approach of a stranger. These reflexes need evangelizing too. It’s not easy, but it’s liberating. Every encounter is a confrontation with a new mystery that holds surprises in store. “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares” (Heb 13:2).
What if the other was the Lord coming to us?
To consider “the other” as your brother, that is, as someone of the same flesh and spirit as yourself, of the same divine origin with a share in the same heritage … does that not already point to eternal life? In the Kingdom, each of us will open the treasure of our heart, and we will be known as we truly are: much better than we appear. That will be true happiness. And it’s possible to inaugurate that happiness here and now.
Isn’t it true happiness to be welcomed without suspicion and loved for who we are? “As you wish that men would do to you, do so to them,” says the Lord (Lk 6:31). What if “the other” was the Lord coming to you (see Mt 25:40)? And what if this is the chance we’d been hoping for, the moment the Lord sends us, which could change our lives? “Blessed is he who comes in the name ofthe Lord!” (Mk 11:9).
Brother Alain Quilici
How to practice hospitality during Lent