Monday in the Thirty-First Week of Ordinary Time
Scripture Readings: Phil 2:1-4; Lk 14:12-14
A week ago, we hosted New Melleray’s first “Lunch and Learn” event for college students, five students from Loras College, for about two hours. The Vocation Team was wondering if it was realistic to think we could capture college age men and women for two full hours on a Saturday. My impression, after this initial experience, was that the students would have liked to stay longer.
During the course of our lunch and tour of the monastery, we were talking about how rapidly our world is changing and, specifically, the effects of ideological and moral relativism. In response to which, one of the students said with some emotion: “Yeah, but – even so, we know, there will always be the church; there will always be her teachings – there will always be monasteries.” I was touched by the fervor in his voice as he spoke. It was as if he wasn’t so much making a prediction about the future, as he was voicing his most fundamental, needs as a young adult in today’s world: his need for a place to come home to: the church – this monastery. He was speaking like a stateless person.
In this morning’s gospel Jesus offers what will be one of the most characteristic teachings of Christian faith: hospitality and table fellowship for those with no status in the world. These are what we call today: “stateless persons”. The parallel is interesting. The men, women, and children making up the notorious “caravan” approaching our southern border will, on there arrival, be officially categorized as “stateless persons”. One might recall that Jean Danielou and other theologians have suggested these stateless persons are, actually, revelations of the basic human condition. We are all stateless persons. Nation-states with closed borders are a relevantly recent innovation in world history. Forcible transfers of whole populations from one region to another has been much more the norm throughout history. Danielou insists, these refugees are showing us visibly and concretely the fundamental condition of humanity after our banishment from the Garden of Eden; a life of dispersal. We are each of us, sinners, suffering the effects of a life in dispersion: a tragic state which, actually, grounds Jesus’ teaching in today’s gospel. Christian hospitality is nothing eccentric. It is the recognition of the human condition we all share. In the event the migrants in the caravan are banned from entering our country, we will not thereby have exonerated ourselves from responsibility for them. The call goes out to each of us, rising from the core of our own humanity to provide some kind of relief for them – as we would wish was provided for us.