These are difficult days. Wars and rumors of wars dominate the headlines. Terrorist attacks lead to increased security and political refugees, especially Syrian refugees, are looked upon with suspicion. We have become a people afraid. Walk through any airport and you’ll see armed guards in the terminals and lists of carry-on items approved by the Transportation Security Administration posted prominently in luggage screening areas. You’ll see travelers arriving in secured areas where no one is allowed to greet them and you’ll see the people who love them waiting to welcome those travelers in hallways beyond the restricted areas. But these are only some of the things you’ll see.
Look closer and you’ll see people walking faster when someone with a dark complexion approaches. You’ll see people who come from the Middle East (or who even look like they’re from the Middle East) waiting in line while other people board ahead of them. You’ll see people pulling small children along to keep them from getting too close to children whose mothers are dressed differently than they are. You’ll see travelers arriving at the gate, and you’ll see the people who fear them hurrying away from those travelers with restricted hearts.
Paul reminds the Corinthians that no spiritual gift — neither prophecy nor tongues nor knowledge nor generosity nor faith nor even martyrdom — can make up for a lack of love. Conversely, he tells them that they must be patient, not rude or quick-tempered and humble, caring more for the needs of others than for their own, people of faith and hope, seeing and believing in the good in others. And more, they are to love — so that they might see clearly.
Jesus’ audience was “… filled with fury …” when he said that Elijah had been sent, not to Israel, but to Sidon, and that Naaman the Syrian, a non-Jew, was the only leper cleansed by Elisha. The people wanted to put limits on God. They did not see as Jesus saw. And so they “… rose up …” to drive him out of the town. What would we do today if we saw Jesus at the airport?
Van Benthem is a member of the Secular Franciscan Order and a longtime pastoral minister, retreat leader, spiritual director and published writer and poet.