By Mark Colville
(Excerpted, revised and messed-around-with from a writing of some years ago…)
December 19… Third week of Advent. The living room has gotten so filled with food and clothes and toys and Christmas decorations, that it’s impossible to have the weekly bible study in there. Instead we sit around the dining table and try to find a few reflective moments in the midst of blessed chaos. Folks trickle in and out for the midday meal; we read John’s account of Christ calling the first disciples; our four-year-old wants a jelly sandwich. John 1:35-51. Questions are raised, from the text as well as the kitchen. What do you seek? Where’s the ketchup? Rabbi, where are you staying? Can I use the phone? Is there any rice left? Can I take this food to go? Can anything good come from Nazareth?… Come and see… Come and see.
Admittedly, it might take us months to get to the Wedding at Cana under these conditions, and maybe we should learn to draw better boundaries between work and prayer, but everyone brings enough grace and patience to the table to make the distractions feel like part of the message. As indeed they are.
After all, I’m thinking, why is this the first question asked of Jesus by the first disciples: Where are you staying? Not “Who are you?” or “What do you think?” or “What do you believe?”. Not “What should we do?”, as they asked John the Baptist, but “Where are you staying?”… And by the way, where are all these people staying, these people who come hungry, cold and desperate, day after day, and in whom the gospels invite us to see the face of Christ? At the overflow shelter? On the park bench? Under the highway bridge? In the cemetery (where there’s a better chance of sleeping undisturbed by the living)? In the woods behind the soccer fields? In abandoned buildings, in cars, or squeezed grudgingly into the apartments of friends or relatives? Thousands of miles away from home, with a border crossing in-between? Or nowhere, always getting moved on from place to place, never completely welcome anywhere?…
“Where are you staying?” When you think about it, maybe this question is the most substantial of all, intended to find the heart of a person, just as its answer means to call us out from wherever we happen to be staying… “Come and see.”
Come and see and know me in the breaking of bread. Come and see and be implicated in the sin of a filthy-rotten-system that denies the sacredness of each one of these people. Come and see and partake of the peace that the world cannot give. Come and see and believe that love is stronger than death. Come and see… and forget where it was that you were staying before.
It seems instructively odd, in an age when there’s so much “my god can beat up your god” to be found in religious discourse, that Jesus and the disciples don’t burst on the scene proclaiming answers, but calling questions. And the questions inevitably lead to a simple truth: The starting point of evangelization is not teaching or preaching. It is hospitality. “So they went and saw where He was staying, and they stayed with Him that day.”
It is with this in mind that we go forward day by day on Rosette Street, trying to cultivate an attitude of hospitality. I’m struck by the thought that these many years of Catholic Worker life have failed to provide me with much insight on how to bring Jesus to other people. But in the blessed chaos of community I’ve begun to see that together we are more than capable of creating spaces where He is certain to show up.
A Merry Christmas to all of you, beloved “come and see-kers”!