Thursday, November 13, 2014

Welcome Him as You Would Me

Perhaps this is why he was away from you for a while, that you might have him back forever, no longer as a slave but more than a slave, a brother, beloved especially to me, but even more so to you, as a man and in the Lord.  So if you regard me as a partner, welcome him as you would me.  Philemon 15-17

Asked by the Pharisees when the Kingdom of God would come, Jesus said in reply, “The coming of the Kingdom of God cannot be observed, and no one will announce, ‘Look, here it is,’ or, ‘There it is.’  For behold, the Kingdom of God is among you.”  Luke 17:20-21

God our Father, who called Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini from Italy to serve the immigrants of America, by her example, teach us to have concern for the stranger, the sick, and all those in need, and by her prayers help us to see Christ in all the men and women we meet. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  (Prayer to St. Frances Cabrini)

How do you relate to God?  Is God something or someone who is “out there?”  Is God external to your being – but a part of your world nonetheless?  Or is God a part of you?  Is God internal to your being – inside you?  Or is your answer both choices?
The translator had a choice when bringing this Gospel into English.  The Kingdom of God is within you.  The Kingdom of God is among you.  Within?  Among?  In our case, the translator chose “among.”  There will not be any trumpet sounding come the judgment day.  The Lord will not be riding into the New Jerusalem on a donkey.  The Lord has already arrived and is among us and within us in thought, word and deed.  Jesus is the Lord of the Present Moment, not of some future time still to come. And not of some distant point of time in the past two thousand years. He endures.  He is.  He always will be.
The relationship of Paul to Onesimus and Philemon also is depicted on multiple levels of time and space.  Paul wants Onesimus to remain with him “imprisoned by the Gospel.”  However, he lets go of that possessive attitude and sends him to Philemon.   He was away and now he is back. He is back a changed man.  As Paul has grown in his relationship with the Lord, his relations with those around him also have changed. 

When we were young, God was an external presence.  The man up in the clouds pointing his finger to Adam. The disembodied voice in the sky or the desert.  The picture or icon hanging on the wall at home or at church.  The presence in the Eucharist up there on the altar that other “older” people could consume. 
Then, with Eucharist, that is where it all begins to change.  At some point in our lives, God stopped being ONLY out there and God invited himself inside.  All we had to do was open our mouths and say Amen.  Or say “Amen!” and then open our mouths.  
How has your relationship with the Lord changed over time?  Welcome the Lord within. 
How has your relationship with others changed as you welcome them as Christ?  Welcome the Lord among you in the person of the stranger as did St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, patron of immigrants.  

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