By coming to us incognito in the form of the destitute, the needy, and the stranger, Christ tests our posture towards these people in general—only by a universal extension of hospitality can we enjoy Jesus’ particular presence. As Hebrews 13:2 declares: ‘Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.’ Only in welcoming all such persons can we be in a position to receive Christ. The Church must live with an open door and an open heart, because that is where Christ meets it.
It is much safer to conceive of Jesus’ presence as something that can be clearly located: in the Eucharist, in the preaching of the gospel, in the body of the Church. A Jesus who can come to us as the unrecognized stranger, as the illegal immigrant, as the foreigner, as the vulnerable child, as the prisoner, as the outcast, as the despised minority—even as our enemy—can terrify us. How can we welcome such a King?
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