Tuesday, April 27, 2010

From hostility to hospitality

In the light of Geoff's post from yesterday, and the boiling controversy over immigration in America, I thought I would share yet another thought from Henri Nouwen's "Reaching Out." This book is really helping me to better understand the path we've been upon in this community for many years, as well as helping illumine the tougher (and more glorious) path that lie ahead. Throughout the book I have continued to be reminded of Jesus' cosmically perplexing words on the cross, "'Father, forgive these people, because they don't know what they are doing.' And the soldiers gambled for his clothes by throwing dice (Luke 23:34)." Why did Jesus say such a thing? I continue to contemplate these words as I wrestle with what it means to live a "spiritual life," and as the governments of our world (with our proxy, whether it be explicit or implicit) place their "bets" and "gamble" with human lives with the decisions they make and the policies they employ. Here are Nouwen's words (written in 1975):

"The first characteristic of the spiritual life is the continuing movement from loneliness to solitude. Its second equally important characteristic is the movement by which our hostilities can be converted into hospitality. It is there that our changing relationship to ourself can be brought to fruition in an ever-changing relationship to our fellow human beings. It is there that our reaching out to our innnermost being can lead to a reaching out to the many strangers whom we meet on our way through life. In our world full of strangers, estranged from their own past, culture and country, from their neighbors, friends and family, from their deepest self and their God, we witness a painful search for a hospitable place where life can be lived without fear and where community can be found. Although many, we might even say most, strangers in this world become easily the victim of a fearful hostility, it is possible for men and women and obligatory for Christians to offer an open and hospitable space where strangers can cast off their strangeness and become our fellow human beings. The movement from hostility to hospitality is hard and full of difficulties. Our society seems to be increasingly full of fearful, defensive, aggressive people anxiously clinging to their property and inclined to look at their surrounding world with suspicion, always expecting an enemy to suddenly appear, intrude and do harm. But still-that is our vocation: to convert the hostis into a hospes, the enemy into a guest and to create the free and fearless space where brotherhood and sisterhood can be formed and fully experienced (p.65)."

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