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On the spirit of the season

Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.

~ Hebrews 13:2

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It's perhaps entirely fitting that, in the Northern Hemisphere at least, Christmas falls on a day in the winter, given how many people are homeless and in need of help in particular during this time of the year. Help can take many forms, too, not just the type of the spare change rattling around in one's pocket. Although we're told by Confucius that the gift of education is the preferred ("Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day; teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime"), in Christ, as with most things the answer is more simple, given the second of the two commandments He lays out, which is to love your neighbor as yourself (which is a form of the first Christian commandment, to love God). Thus even if you can't spare enough to buy someone a meal, any simple act of compassion, no matter how seemingly small, might be enough to turn a needful stranger's day around for the better.

The easiest way to do this, of course, is just to talk to him or her. Let the pocket change be the icebreaker for a conversation, no matter how brief, rather than the price you pay to get away as so many of us do reflexively. Bearing in mind how much of one's station in life is purely arbitrary and subject to the whims of a power beyond one's control (because you can't control what you were born with, or where or when)--indeed, that "There but for the grace of God go I"--it doesn't take much empathetic effort to see one's self in one's fellow beleaguered stranger.

To have Christ's commandment ready at hand the better to serve and to love one's fellow man is a key to mindfulness, the maintenance of a Christian outlook which, pursued to its logical conclusion, turns the entire world into a monastery for the glory of God. Not even the contents of one's mind are solely one's own and are accordingly subject to judgment (Matthew 5:27-28: "You have heard that it was said, 'Do not commit adultery.' But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart."). Therefore, the love for one's neighbor, no matter how dirty, disheveled or wretched he or she may be, begins with a re-examination of one's own inner dispositions and attitudes, lest one be of one cloth with the Pharisees whom Jesus accuses of hypocrisy (Luke 12:1-4): 

In the mean time, when there were gathered together an innumerable multitude of people, insomuch that they trode one upon another, he began to say unto his disciples first of all, Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known. Therefore whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light; and that which ye have spoken in the ear in closets shall be proclaimed upon the housetops.

If, as St. Paul tells us in his letter to Titus (1:15), "To the pure, all things are pure," then no amount of dirt or bad breath or BO or poor manners on the part of the unfortunates living on the streets can possibly offend the person bound by the love of Christ into service to his or her fellow beings. Indeed, to refrain from interacting from someone on such a shallow basis is therefore the logical evidence of one's own inner filth. 

Hopefully we're all mindful of being generous during the holiday season, so it's possibly a perfect time to reflect and begin that process of inner examination which results in the organic, uncontrived love for one's neighbor that will, by the grace of God, bear the fruit of kindness all throughout the year--whether through philanthropy, or volunteering, or random acts of kindness toward strangers. We're only a few days from making New Year's resolutions, after all!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all, with agape.

Comments

  • Michael Lujan 4 years ago

    And thanks to my friend MJ for providing the Hebrews quote!

  • Amy Johnson 4 years ago

    You have warmed my heart, and inspired me to higher planes, Michael! May you continue to be enraptured by Agape, to pierce the world's darkness with the effulgent Light of Truth!

  • Rhonda 4 years ago

    Beautifully stated, Michael.

  • Blake Hall - Phoenix Paganism Examiner 4 years ago

    Like your work, became a subscriber. Love is the Law.