“Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you; or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and make you welcome; naked and clothe you; sick or in prison and go to see you?” (Mt 25:31ff)
What matters in the end is what we do, not what we think we are doing. Many religious people feel it is their duty to defend God from impious men condemning or killing because they best know who God is. What if God is hidden in the other? If God’s name is unspeakable, immersed in its own silence, merged with our human names? When did we see you..? You didn’t name yourself.. We didn’t recognise you.
The name is discovered in the other because God is never separate, the ground of being not a being that can be labelled.
Only by entering silence – silence is taking the focus of attention off ourselves and projecting it into the unknown - can we find this other. Busy Christians can forget that feeding the poor, clothing the naked and welcoming the stranger is a work of silence once our attention is truly on those we serve, not on ourselves or the institution behind us. In the silence of such love ‘service provider’ and ‘service user’ reveal God to each other. And in so doing those cold labels float away.
Only by finding the other can we find ourselves.
The other can be threatening. Different colour, food, language, dress or customs. If, on the other hand, we are attracted to the other we can fear falling into their otherness and so being absorbed - or simply rejected.
There is no worse pain than the emotional exile of rejection. There is no greater joy than when the other smiles back from their heart, recognises and seeks you. God is not an alternative to the risk and pain of human relationship. She is the intimate otherness of the common ground in which we meet and painfully learn to love each other.
“And the King will answer, “I tell you solemnly, in so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers or sisters of mine, you did it to me.”
And the King will answer, “I tell you solemnly, in so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me.”
Laurence Freeman OSB