A Reflection for the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Pope Francis was only newly elected when he determined a fundamental priority of his pontificate: receiving Christ in the stranger. We live in a time of unprecedented global migration, most of which is forced upon refugees who flee violence, oppression and poverty. Yes, nation-states require borders, and we are far from outgrowing nationalism. But refugees require reverence. We cannot tolerate policies that treat people simply as problems.
In contrast to politicians who stoke fear about migrants to gain power, Francis’s policy can be summed up in one line from Scripture: “I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” (Mt 25:35).
We have all heard the expression: “Expect the unexpected.” The Christian version is “stay awake for the surprise.” St. Paul wrote to the church in Thessalonica, warning them about a “sudden disaster,” saying that it was coming “like a thief in the night.” He urged them “to stay awake.”
“Stay awake for the surprise” is both Christ’s prediction of what will come and his pointer for Christian discipleship. We will be just as surprised by Christ’s advent at the end of history as we are with his daily arrival—but only if we stay awake for both, if we remain spiritually alert. To be Christian is to expect the unexpected, to allow the Lord to lead us where we would not go.
Taken as a whole, the message of the New Testament is that God is ever new, a thief in the night; that God’s activity is always unprecedented, a sudden disaster; and that everything depends upon our being ready to be surprised, our staying awake.
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Rev. Terrance W. Klein is a priest of the Diocese of Dodge City, Kansas, United States and author of Vanity Faith.
With thanks to America Magazine and Fr Terrance Klein, where this article originally appeared.