Yesterday’s sermon from Matthew 25 hinted at the idea that Christ is in every hungry, thirsty, shivering, lonely, sick, or imprisoned person we encounter. It reminded me of a paragraph from Kathleen Norris’s book Dakota that has brought a smile to my face over and over again through the years. Let me share it with you here:
Visits to monasteries are as old as monasteries themselves. We think of monks as being remote from the world, but Saint Benedict, writing in the sixth century, notes that a monastery is never without guests, and admonishes monks to “receive all guests as Christ.” Monks have been quick to recognize that such hospitality, while undoubtedly a blessing, can also create burdens for them. A story said to originate in a Russian Orthodox monastery has an older monk telling a younger one: “I have finally learned to accept people as they are. Whatever they are in the world, a prostitute, a prime minister, it is all the same to me. But sometimes I see a stranger coming up the road and I say, ‘Oh, Jesus Christ, is it you again?'”
If you say it with just the right inflection, it sums up everything we often feel when we are confronted with the needs of the world. But if you say it often enough it will also remind you of who is watching and why it matters that we respond with compassion.