Week Three: Among you stands one whom you do not know (John 1:19-28)
I was a stranger and you welcomed me! Many of us forget that Joseph, Mary and Jesus had to flee their homeland and become refugees in Egypt for a period of time (Mt 2:1-15). They experienced the dread of travelling under cover of darkness. They lived the chaos of a hurried departure. They felt the anxiety and fear of uncertainty. They travelled a journey of risk, fraught with danger. They understood the pain of leaving a place they called home.
Among us today stand the many people who have undertaken similar journeys not because they wanted to but because they were compelled to. There are over 65 million forcibly displaced people worldwide. This week we are invited to become aware of the migrant population of the world and to stand in solidarity with all those who appear to be different to us because of, among other things, race, skin colour, creed, belief, political affiliation, sexual orientation or economic opportunity.
Scott Peck tells a story of a monastery that had fallen upon hard times – the spirit had gone out of the people. The concerned abbot seeks the advice of a rabbi. They spend considerable time together in conversation with no apparent solution emerging to resolve the issue. Just as the abbot is leaving, the rabbi says to him, ‘I have no advice to give. The only thing I can tell you is that the Messiah is one of you’. The abbot returns to his monastery with this cryptic message. As the days and weeks go by there is a palpable transformation among the monks in the monastery for they had started ‘to treat each other with extraordinary respect on the off chance that one among them might be the Messiah. And on the off chance that each monk himself might be the Messiah, they began to treat themselves with extraordinary respect’.
Let us take that as our invitation and recognise that among us stands one whom we do not know, among us stands the stranger, and among us stands the one who is the Messiah. And, in this week when we celebrate the winter solstice let us pray with the words of Edward Hays:
We are mindful that the darkness of greed, exploitation, and hatred also lengthens its shadow over our small planet Earth. As our ancestors feared death and evil and all the dark powers of winter, we fear that the darkness of war, discrimination, and selfishness may doom us and our planet to an eternal winter. May we find hope in the lights we have kindled on this sacred night, hope in one another and in all who form the web-work of peace and justice that spans the world. In the heart of every person on this Earth burns the spark of luminous goodness; in no heart is there total darkness. May we who have celebrated this winter solstice, by our lives and service, by our prayers and love, call forth from one another the light and the love that is hidden in every heart. Amen.
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