Lenten Reflection Day #25


Even as Jesus sets his face towards Jerusalem, he maintains his capacity to see people as individuals.  I’m thinking here of Zaccheus, the rich taxcollector, as well as Bartimeaus, the blind beggar, both of whom appear at the roadside as Jesus passes by.  It would be easy for them to be lost in the crowds, but they are not lost to Jesus.  

In both instances, there are some distinctly unseemly aspects to their lives.  Zaccheus is a rich tax-collector ostracized by his community.  Bartimaeus is an invalid reduced to begging, a posture others will tolerate only as long as he doesn’t make a scene.  (When he does by crying out to Jesus, the people want him to shut up and disappear.)   Jesus sees both of them, reaching out to them that they may be blessed in their depths.   

There is something within us that tends to reduce the people around us to stereotypes.   Instead of seeing them as richly nuanced, we assume they are defined them by their job, their culture, their political party, their age, etc., etc, etc.    In doing so, we don’t really see them at all.  

As I’ve often said, one of the great privileges of my vocation is the opportunity I am sometimes given to listen to people share their stories in depth.  When people open up, what they share inevitably involves both burden and blessing, love and loss, sin and grace.  The stories revealed include parts that aren’t pretty, but taken as a whole they are always beautiful, in you understand what I mean. 

I’ve passed a couple of Roman Catholic Churches recently with signs out front that invite parishioners during Lent to come for the rite of confession, and in doing so, to “come home.”  It’s an odd invitation from a Protestant point of view.    Perhaps the point is this: in this hurried society that rarely gives people much opportunity to be known deeply, there is a great need to have another flesh and blood human being listen intently to the stories of our lives, including that which is distinctly not pretty, and having listened well, to bless us – claim us once more as beloved child of God.

You really don’t need to be a priest or a pastor to pull this off.  Any of us can provide the hospitable space  where others can share their stories feel themselves to be known in their depths.  Jesus is present in such space, saying once more, “Arise and go in peace.” 

Save us O God of love and mercy from succumbing to the pressures that  would make us invisible to one another.   Like Jesus, allow us to see individuals, not mystery-avoiding stereotypes.  And allow us to mediate your healing grace by listening with compassion to the stories we carry hidden within us.  In Jesus name.  Amen.

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