Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Henri Nouwen on Hospitality on an Inhospitable Day

Each Lent, I read my way through Show Me the Way:  Readings for Each Day of Lent; the readings are taken from the works of Henri J. M. Nouwen.  Each year I wonder if I can possibly read anything new in this book that I've been using for a decade.  Each year, I do.

Even if I didn't, I'd still use it, because the ideas contained are so wonderful and so essential--it would be good to rediscover them each year.  But each year, something new leaps out at me. 
Yesterday, I underlined this passage:  "But still, if there is any concept worth restoring to its original depth and evocative potential, it is the concept of hospitality.  It is one of the richest biblical terms that can deepen and broaden our insight in our relationships to our fellow human beings" (p. 25).

How interesting that I underlined this passage on the same day that Trump presented his new travel ban.  I am guessing that Trump and his minions would not agree with this passage that follows:  "Old and New Testament stories not only show how serious our obligation is to welcome the stranger in our home, but they also tell us that guests are carrying precious gifts with them, which they are eager to reveal to a receptive host" (originally in Reaching Out; reprinted in Show Me the Way, page 25).

Do I think that if Trump had been raised in a different faith tradition he might have a different approach to refugees and immigrants?  Yes, yes I do.  It would be no guarantee, I know.  Many people are raised in faith traditions and grow up to be despicable humans.  But many more are shaped and formed in ways that last through adulthood.

I'm also interested in this book that I return to every year.  At some point, will I underline the whole book?

I wrote a blog piece on Nouwen and hospitality in 2011, but I didn't underline the book at that point.  Interesting.  In the blog piece, I referenced the passage that I underlined yesterday.  If not for the blog post, I wouldn't have remembered that the day's readings had spoken to me before.

Last week, I discovered that a new collection of unpublished Nouwen letters had been put together.  I'll order it as we get closer to Easter.  His writing, no matter the genre, has always provided such nourishment to me. 

Writing as hospitality--maybe I'll write more about that idea at some point.

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