Pathways through Lent

Weekday reflections from St. John’s in the season of Lent.

Monday in the First Week of Lent: February 19, 2024

“I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” 

When we arrived in Rome, everyone told us to visit the Villa Doria Pamphili with its gardens, walks, and playground. So, one afternoon, though we were still busy settling in, I set off with my two-year-old and four-year-old to explore. As the Villa was only a few blocks away, we soon arrived at a massive wall. Walking along the sidewalk, we could hear children’s voices and the thuds of soccer balls from inside the park. Tree tops glistened in the afternoon sun; the air was scented with flowers.

We walked along the wall for more than fifteen minutes without coming to a gate; we then retraced our steps, assuming the gate was in the other direction. As we walked the other way, the children’s voices became more distant, and the sidewalk began to narrow. Rush hour was starting; Vespas and Fiats whizzed by, uncomfortably close. In the end we went home, tired, hungry, and cranky, without ever having found the gate. Though fifty years have passed, I still recall what it felt like to be a straniera, a foreigner, a stranger. It was exhausting, isolating, humiliating. Even children knew how to get into that park, but I did not!

As the Sacred Ground program at St. John’s made clear, we surround ourselves with all sorts of walls, using race, gender, class, national origin, education, language to set ourselves apart from others. The uncomfortable truth is that insiders often guard their status fiercely for the power, security, and comfort it provides. To welcome the stranger, we must begin by examining ourselves. When I meet people, do I unconsciously make assumptions about them based on what I see? Do I bristle when I hear accents, regional dialects, or ungrammatical speech? Am I impatient in line at the post office because the person ahead of me does not understand a form? Have I listened respectfully to someone with whom I disagree politically? Do I appreciate the injustice that others experience? Have I tried to fight that injustice?

Will I open the door to Jesus, the stranger?

Livy More
Pathways Editor

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