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Tuesday of the 3rd week of Advent
December 18, 2018
My Lord and my God, empower me to listen to Your angels' guidance, and help me to be willing to follow their advice. Amen.
Faith grows in the spirit of hospitality
In today's Gospel reading, we see Joseph receiving Mary into his home. "Receive" is a wonderful word for how God wants to relate to us - he's very welcoming. He is the Spirit of Hospitality.
Consider the circumstances in which Joseph made the decision to be hospitable to Mary. Of course he loved her, but her out-of-wedlock pregnancy would have many ramifications. The townspeople and religious authorities wouldn't believe Mary's story about how this child had been conceived. If anyone condemned Joseph for overlooking Mary's "sin", he could lose his good reputation in the synagogue. As a carpenter who supported his family through his business, he probably also felt concerned about losing customers.
By law, Mary could be stoned to death. The whole situation was probably very disheartening for him. Surely he felt betrayed. Surely he was unhappy about ending their marriage commitment, although he gladly did it in order to save her from death and to free her to marry the baby's father.
However, after prayerfully discerning that he should receive her into his home and accept a "sinner" as his wife, choosing to raise her illegitimate child as his own, how comfortable did he feel about it? Surely he wondered what this would do to his community status and financial security. And how would his decision change his plans for the future?
He gained courage from the angel in his dream who confirmed Mary's story, but still he had to choose between committing himself to a future that was unlike any he had anticipated and protecting the familiar and safe life that he'd been living and planning.
Jesus comes to all of us in unexpected ways that challenge the comfortable and familiar patterns of our lives. Growing in faith involves accepting God's disconcerting surprises.
The Spirit of Hospitality challenges us more often than we like to admit. Jesus sometimes comes to us in people we least feel like being hospitable to. Remember the warning that Jesus gave in Matthew 25: "Whatever you do to the least of these, you do to me." How well do you receive him when he comes as a pesky relative or an irritating ex-spouse?
A few years ago when I was writing on this theme for another occasion, my concentration was interrupted by a long, loud blare of a garbage truck's horn. The truck could not drive past my house, because the street was blocked by my car and a moving van for the neighbors. I felt embarrassed. I felt insulted (blaring horns sound so rude). And I felt like saying something rude to the sanitation employee who glared at me as I moved my car.
Jesus had come to me in an unexpected way. By the grace of God, I smiled at the man instead of opening my mouth. At that moment, I received Jesus.
To grow stronger in faith, watch for Jesus to appear in the form of people who are risky to care for or who trigger inhospitable feelings. You will meet him many times today. Welcome him.
|Meditate on this reflection in our Virtual Reality world "Hidden Water Way" (no special equipment needed).|
© 2018 by Terry A. Modica
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