Reflection - December 5, 2016

By Darren McClellan

published 12/5/2016
Dear Friends,

Throughout this charge conference season, I have traveled across the Baypines District sharing the story of Peter Lovenheim’s unusual method for creating community within his own neighborhood.  For those who have not heard it yet, I won’t spoil it, but suffice to say that it requires making room for one another in a rather intentional way.

With the lessons from Lovenheim’s Into the Neighborhood firmly embedded in my mind, I wanted to share with you what I understand to be the Advent edition of that devotional message.  It comes this time from the witness of Dorothy Day, whose words and actions were often, graciously, one and the same.

From Day’s Selected Writings,

“It is no use saying that we are born two thousand years too late to give room to Christ…Christ is always with us, always asking for room in our hearts.  But now it is with the voice of our contemporaries that he speaks, with the eyes of the store clerks, factory workers, and children that he gazes; with the hands of office workers, slum dwellers and suburban housewives that he gives.  It is with the feet of soldiers and tramps that he walks, and with the heart of anyone in need that he longs for shelter.  And giving shelter or food to anyone who asks for it, or needs it, is giving it to Christ.

We can do now what those who knew him in the days of his flesh did.  I am sure that the shepherds did not adore and then go away to leave Mary and her Christ in the stable, but somehow found them room, even though what they had to offer might have been primitive enough.  All that the friends of Christ did for him in his lifetime, we can do.  Peter’s mother-in-law hastened to cook a meal for him, and if anything in the Gospels can be inferred, it is surely that she gave the very best she had, with no thought of extravagance.  Matthew made a feast for him, inviting the whole town, so that the house was in an uproar of enjoyment, and the straitlaced Pharisees—the good people—were scandalized. 

The people of Samaria, despised and isolated, were overjoyed to give him hospitality, and for days he walked and ate and slept among them.  And the loveliest of all relationships in Christ’s life, after the relationship with his Mother, is his friendship with Martha, Mary, Lazarus and the continual hospitality he found with them.  It is a staggering thought that there were once two sisters and a brother whom Jesus looked on almost as his family and where he found a second home, where Martha got on with her work, bustling around in her house—proud way, and Mary simply sat in silence with him.

If we hadn’t got Christ’s own words for it, it would seem raving lunacy to believe that if I offer a bed and food and hospitality to some man or woman or child, I am replaying the part of Lazarus or Martha or Mary, and that my guest is Christ.  There is nothing to show it, perhaps.  There are no halos already glowing round their heads—at least none that human eyes can see…

It would be foolish to pretend that it is always easy to remember this.  If everyone where holy and handsome, with alter Christus shining in neon lighting from them, it would be easy to see Christ in everyone.  If Mary had appeared in Bethlehem clothed, as St. John says, with the sun, a crown of twelve stars on her head, and the moon under her feet, then people would have fought to make room for her.  But this was not God’s way for her, nor is it Christ’s way for himself, now when he is disguised under every type of humanity that treads the earth…

…it is a good thing to ask honestly what would you do, or have done, when a beggar asked at your house for food.  Would you—or did you—give it an old cracked plate, thinking that was good enough?  Do you think that Martha and Mary thought that the old and chipped dish was good enough for their guest?”

Dorothy Day has me rethinking all of the discount dinnerware we have used in the “community dinners” where I have previously served.

I assure you that when you haven’t done it for one of the least of these, you haven’t done it for me (Lk. 25:45).

What will be on the table for Christmas dinner at your house?  I thought so. 

And who will be invited?  Let us reconsider…

The Word became flesh, and made his home among us (Jn. 1:14, CEB).