The Unlikeliest Places

Think of someone you dislike—someone you generally avoid because his/her presence generates negative feelings in you. Imagine yourself in this person’s presence now and watch the negative emotions arise…you are, quite conceivably, in the presence of someone who is “poor, crippled, blind or lame,” as we look at the text from Luke 14:21:

The householder in anger said to his servant, “Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and maimed and blind and lame.”

The essay I’m sharing today comes directly from a writing by Anthony de Mello in his book called, “The Way to Love.” I cannot take credit for any of this wisdom, but I wanted to share it this week because it struck my heart as perfect for our focus on the beatitude about Mercy this week in Parables.

I’ll continue now with Anthony’s writing…

Now understand that if you invite this person, this beggar from the streets and alleys into your home, that is, into your presence, he/she will make you a gift that none of your charming, pleasant friends can make you, rich as they are. He or she is going to reveal yourself to you and reveal human nature to you—a revelation as precious as any found in Scripture, for what will it profit you to know all the Scriptures if you do not know yourself and so live the life of a robot? The revelation that this beggar is going to bring will widen your heart till there is room in it for every living creature. Can there be a finer gift than that?

…All you have to do is understand that there are people in the world who, if they were in your place, would not be negatively affected by this person…your negative feelings are caused, not by this person, as you mistakenly think, but by your programming.

This behavior, this trait in the other person that causes you to react negatively—do you realize that he or she is not responsible for it? You can hold on to your negative feelings only when you mistakenly believe that he or she is free and aware and therefore responsible.

But who ever did evil in awareness? The ability to do evil or to be evil is not freedom but a sickness for it implies a lack of consciousness and sensitivity. Those who are truly free cannot sin as God cannot sin. This poor person here in front of you is crippled, blind, lame, not stubborn and malicious as you foolishly thought.

Understand this truth; look at it steadfastly and deeply; and you will see your negative emotions turn into gentleness and compassion.

…When you see this you will notice how to the feeling of compassion in your heart has been added the feeling of gratitude to this beggar who is your benefactor…[and you may] actually feel a desire to seek out the company of these growth-producing crippled, blind and lame people, the way someone who has learned to swim seeks water, because each time you are with them, where before you used to feel the oppression and tyranny of negative feelings, you can now actually feel an ever-expanding compassion and the freedom of the skies.

This Sunday in Parables we will be exploring what it means to see Mercy (the compassionate justice of God) as a river of Love that flows through everything and everyone. How can we offer cups of mercy to those we perceive as just not trying that hard, not caring as much as we do, or taking advantage of our kindness?

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