Monday of the Twenty-Sixth Week of the Year
There are few frights as deep as when you are the stranger, an alien in a hostile land. I was once lost in a little town in the West Bank. It was the most lost I have ever been. Separated from my seminarian brothers, I tried to ask where I was, but no one understood me. I tried to look at the signs, but they were just a bunch of squiggly lines. At one point I stood there and just wanted to cry like a little lost child.
The Syrian refugee on the border with Hungary, the Afghan in downtown London or the Latin American in a small Mid-Western town know what that feels like every day. The fright, the pure panic when you don’t know the language, the food or the customs. And even worse, when they yell at you to go home.
Perhaps that is why God commanded the Israelites:
“When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.” (Leviticus 19:33-34.)
We were strangers in the land of Egypt and in the diaspora, when we, the followers of the one true God, were scattered like seeds at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar.
But no matter the cause of the exile, God always promises to lead us home, even if it takes a very long time. Thus from Zechariah we hear of old men and women, hobbling along with canes, still dreaming of the Jerusalem they knew in their youth, a city whose streets will once again be filled with boys and girls playing and singing for joy.
He knows that God has promised and will make it so:
Lo, I will rescue my people…
I will bring them back to dwell within Jerusalem.
They shall be my people, and I will be their God…
God’s promise is given to every stranger, every exile and each one of us when we are lost. Lost in lands of selfishness and sin, lost in arid deserts of frustration and hurt, and lost on strange by-ways when we choose the wrong paths.
Be not afraid! For the Father of the prodigal still looks for us on the road, the Good Shepherd seeks us out and the Heavenly Jerusalem, no matter how far away we wander, is always our ultimate home.