Monday, March 7, 2011

Francis Embraces A Stranger

Feb 23, 2011

Greetings to all,
      "EVERY GOOD FRIEND WAS ONCE A STRANGER" -Steve Barry, The Paris Vendetta, 2009

     Try to disprove that statement!  It's always true...but unfortunately, most of the time we are not consciously aware of the INCREDIBLE OPPORTUNITY which it opens up to our lives.  In our life experience we quickly learn to identify individuals as either "like-us" or "not-like-us"  and we are taught to be suspicious of those who are out-side of our charcteristics and values.  Humans have always been fear-filled and cautious toward those who were different in skin color, language, culture, religion,etc.  However, when adults reflect back over their lives, most of us find that we have enjoyed good friendship and loving support from individuals who, strange enough, would have fit into our earlier perception of someone "unlike-us".  But through some event in our lives, we successfully related with each other in a meaningful way which disregarded our differences.  Yes, these differences continued to exist in each of us, but they were ACCEPTED; and any earlier fears related to them were neutralized by the good qualities of our relationship.  Thus a friendship was created even though both individuals came into it with many personal differences.
     The life of St. Francis was filled with many friendly relationships which developed with people whose characteristics were very different from those of the Saint.  Yet, he could always call them "brother or sister" and friend because Francis EMBRACED them as individuals who were lovingly created by the same God who had created him.  In Francis' mind, these differences were suppressed by their commonalty as part of the Divine creation.  In modern times, the blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta would frequently say that when she looked upon a sick or dying person - whether Hundu, Muslim or Christian - she could always see the same face...the face of the suffering Christ. 
     Fear related to our differences can be neutralized if we recognoze that we and the "other-one" are all part of the great Web of Life.    
                    All created by the same loving God....
                    All woven together to relate in harmony within a "cosmic tapestry" which glorifies the Creator.
     But in that cosmic tapestry of life, our "life thread" must connect to other threads...must interact with and rest peacefully with other that the great universal plan for which God created us can be realized and "held-together" as a beautiful and colorful work.
     In the 21st century, we live in a world which has experienced enormous change within just a few decades.  Our world has become a small, blue ball within a huge universe; and from that perspective no national boundries are seen.  Global transportaion and communication bring people of "any and all" cultures into "neighbor-like" existence and potential relationship.  Yet, this global shrinking does not remove from each of us those cultural,ethnic and religious differences.  The great question for this century is whether or not we, who have collided together in this globalization, will continue to behave as if we are strangers to each other...locked in a pattern of separation, fearful distrust, and ignorance of each other's values.  Our only option to such a dismal end will be found as we embrace opportunities to learn about each other, discover "common ground", and interact with each other in a meaningful manner.
     As followers of Christ Jesus, it should be easy for us to appreciate the necessity of universal brother(sister)hood because we, like Francis, understand that the one God created all of us.  But unfortunately the ego-protective behaviors, which are fear and separation based, are strongly placed into our awareness during childhood.  Therefore, we must ACTIVELY seek ways to over-come these fears which produce separation and make strangers of others. 
     Ironically this same globalization process has made more readily attainable ONE portion of the solution.  Communication and relaiable information about the various human cultures, religions and beliefs are available via media, books, cultural performances, etc.  But these opportunities for better understanding still require another element for problem solution.  And that, my friends, is  OUR INDIVIDUAL WILLINGNESS to enter into dialogue with the stranger and embrace them.  As we begin to appreciate our commonalty with each other, it is then that we can embrace each other - not as strangers - but as potential friends and fellow creations of God.
     As Christians we acknowledge that God created EACH OF US ...each of us in ALL of our variations, cultures, beliefs, and characteristic backgrounds.
              Part of that Divine Love, which is is essence of God, was given to ALL OF HUMANITY in all of its variations.
                        The FACE of the suffering Christ is visible in EVERY HUMAN FACE - even those distorted by pain and sin...and even those which at first look strange to us.
     The loving acceptance which we have already experienced from God should become OUR EXAMPLE to embrace others.  That compassionate and Grace-filled love, which Christ first expressed toward us, is like a GREAT RIVER whose "loving waters" must not be dammed-up and restricted only to us.  As St. Francis threw open his heart to embrace the whole of creation, may we also strive to become more accepting and loving of those around us who are different in culture and value...Maybe some of those strangers will become our friends!

God's Peace and Love to each of you!          Donald Luke

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