A couple lines from today’s readings bring to mind a favorite song of mine here in Brazil. They also offer a challenge to each of us regarding our openness to the “other” – how welcoming we are to strangers and travelers. In the second reading, Peter says that we are like living stones being built into a spiritual house and, according to the apostle John, Jesus describes God’s house, clearly a spiritual house, as one with many rooms to welcome many guests.
The song I recall is entitled “Cidadão” ("Citizen") by Ze Geraldo. It is sung from the point of view of a construction worker who worked on a building that, now finished, he is not allowered to enter. He also describes all the work he put into building a school that his daughter can't attend because she is poor. Then he points to a church that he helped build and says it was worth all the work because he is welcome in that building.
Perhaps the most powerful stanza of the song is the last, in which Jesus responds to the construction worker, saying,
“It was I who created Earth
I filled the river, raised the bluffs
I left nothing lacking
Today, humans have created wings
And in the majority of their houses
I also cannot enter…"
If, as Peter suggests, we are being built into a spiritual house, do we have rooms to welcome others as God models for us? Of course we have many different “houses”:
- Our minds: Do we have room in our minds and hearts for people from other cultures? for people who choose other ways of living? for people who think differently than we do?
- Our physical homes: Do we open our home for those in need? Is it open to people with backgrounds and beliefs different than our own?
- Our communities: Is ours a community where strangers feel welcome?
Human migration has always been a lived reality. It is nothing new. Especially today, with predictions of increased international migration in coming years and decades due to climate change effects, conflicts over dwindling resources and more, how we can best be an open, welcoming spiritual house and reflect God’s love toward the stranger, the immigrant?