Our spiritual family teaches us how to live

| Deacon Mickey Friesen | May 9, 2012 | 0 Comments

About 15 years ago I began to search out the genealogies of my family. Over the years I have acquired pictures of family members going back four generations. As I look at the faces in those old pictures I know that I am related to them, but much of their lives remain hidden.

The good news is that, every so often, I learn a new detail or hear a new story about one of my ancestors. When I do, I feel more grounded in and connected to my identity. I feel as though I know better the meaning of my name.

Throughout the Easter season, we are invited to consider what it means to live in Jesus’ name — if you will; our spiritual genealogy.

In Jesus’ name, the first apostles claimed their power to preach and heal the sick.

In Jesus’ name, they called believers the Children of God.

In Jesus’ name, they moved beyond the borders of ethnicity and social class to form a new community of disciples.

Living in Jesus’ name redefined their relationship to the human family, all of creation and their past and future. Over time, this new identity disclosed a new way of living with gentiles, outsiders and stran­gers and even enemies.

Seeing the others

For example, it is recorded that during a plague in Rome in the 3rd century, many Romans fled and abandoned the sick out of fear. And yet, the Christians stayed and cared for the sick; including non-family members and strangers. The Christians believed this was an opportunity to lay down their lives for Christ and to serve him in their care for the sick. This act of hospitality inspired many people to consider Christian life because of how they loved and cared for outsiders and strangers.

Otherness can take many forms in our own day. We have our own kinds of tribalism and experiences of “us and them.”
We can see how one of the most dangerous places to be is on the borders.

For example, the border between Sudan and South Sudan is currently under siege because they don’t know how to relate with one another.

Our own southern border with Mexico has become violent and militarized because we don’t know how to relate with the issue of immigration.

Our political discourse often makes a point to demonize the other.

In our personal lives, the other can be as close as one of our in-laws or a particular neighbor.

The other can be found in our bodies in the form of disease and disability.

What are the names for the “others” in our lives?

The risen Christ welcomes others. He is the stone rejected by the builders that has become the cornerstone. He is present among the least of these. He gathers the other sheep beyond our flock.

Life in Christ is founded on a life of hospitality. Hospitality believes that the other has something to teach me. Hospitality invites and makes room for otherness. This welcoming tradition has been handed down to us in monasteries, hospitals and orphanages.

Today, for example, our local efforts of Catholic Charities and global efforts of Catholic Relief Services are founded on this habit of the heart to welcome the poor, the refugee and the stranger. The Christian impulse is not to fear or run from the outsiders, but rather to welcome them as Christ.

In the Letter of John, the writer says, “Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (I John 3:2).

Coming to know our name in Jesus will reveal a new relationship with the rest of the world that will have implications for our living and decision-making. Welcoming the other is to welcome Christ.

As in former ages, it may be our hospitality that will lead others to Christ and the church.

Deacon Mickey Friesen is director of the Center for Mission.

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Category: Commentary, Sharing Faith