This thought-provoking piece, written by my friend Rick Wilcox, appeared originally on his Literary Life blog. I am reprinting it with his permission, and I hope you’ll head over there and read other posts he has written. I find them both intellectually and spiritually nourishing. Rick is a greatly appreciated Heartspoken Connection Messenger.*
Let all guests who arrive be received as Christ, because He will say: “I was a stranger and you took Me in.” And let due honor be shown to all, especially to those “of the household of the faith” and to wayfarers. When, therefore, a guest is announced, let him be met by the superior and the brethren with every mark of charity.…In the greeting let all humility be shown to the guests, whether coming or going; with the head bowed down or the whole body prostrate on the ground, let Christ be adored in them as He is also received.
St. Benedict, from The Rule
Oh God, It’s My Brother!
We entertain a lot of guests during the holidays, and let’s admit it – some are more challenging than others. There’s an old saying that in the end you end up picking your own family because often your friends are closer than brothers. Extended families can go all year without much communication, but when the holidays come around, they are often thrust back together, and just the thought of that can be a big source of stress.
It’s ironic and sad that kindness to strangers is often easier than talking to a loved one without being sarcastic. Our minds are nasty little catalogs of all the ways we have been hurt and offended, and we separate ourselves emotionally out of bitterness and pain. In this sense, our families can become strangers to us. The hidden opportunity (beyond possible or impossible reconciliation) is for personal growth.
We become more Christ-like when we serve the image of God who is standing before us – even if He is disguised as your relative.
Hebrews 13: 1-2
Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers,
for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.
Rick Wilcox is a businessman, theologian and literature wonk. Founder and moderator of Literary Life, a website dedicated to the illumination of truth through reading the classics, Wilcox is an ordained minister with a heart for all of God’s children.
* A Heartspoken Connection Messenger is someone who helps point the way to strengthening the essential connections in our lives: with God, with self, with others, and with nature.