“Whatever town or village you enter, look for a worthy person in it ?and stay there until you leave...”
One of the staples of the saint stories that I loved as a child was the tale of the saint befriending a stranger in need who turned out to be Christ in disguise. Generations of us grew up with the image of St. Christopher carrying the Child Jesus across the river. So what if St. Christopher turned out to be mythical? Then there was St. Martin of Tours who split his cloak with a beggar who turned out to be Christ and many more I have forgotten.
The point of these possibly fanciful tales is the same as today’s passage from Matthew and relevant to us today. Welcome the strangers and immigrants seeking refuge among us seeking assistance from“worthy persons;” they are Christ in our midst.
Years ago, I was heavily involved in refugee resettlement – the hardest volunteer work I’ve ever done, work that taught me the severe limits of my nobility. Those years (with a strong prick to the conscience for being uninvolved now) came hauntingly to mind during Lent when I joined a campus group in reading “They Come Back Singing” by Gary Smith, S.J. that tells of his work with Sudanese refugees in Uganda. Read it and you will not react the same when you encounter Sudanese or other immigrants in your community.
Think also about the harsher message of today’s Gospel. If we do nothing for those seeking “a worthy person” and a place to stay, would Christ find our lands more deserving of punishment than “Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment”? Think how Christ would react to some of the hateful nativism of some who claim to follow him.
If you do nothing else, read Fr. Smith’s wonderful book and meditate on how we must embrace the strangers among us as family if we are to embrace Christ.
Maybe those saint stories that I remember from St. Mary’s Grade School years ago were far more than pre-Vatican II pietism.
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