“There are no 'ordinary'
people. You have never talked to a mere mortal….
Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest
object presented to your senses."
– C.S. Lewis, The
Weight of Glory
Sacrament of the Neighbor
at Starbucks, driving on the freeways, shopping for groceries,
attending the baseball—they’re everywhere. People. Churches, stadiums,
malls, and theaters have them by the busload. They hurry and scurry
like disorganized ants—eating, talking, drinking, laughing, texting,
driving (and sometimes all of that at the same time). Nameless.
Placeless. Story-less—to us. As we are to them.
crowded train or elevator makes us claustrophobic. A room full of
strangers makes us uncomfortable. And even folk we know can tire us.
C.S. Lewis touches a truth of great proportions when he asserts that
“Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest
object presented to your senses.” How better to receive grace than
through another person? How better to be blessed than by someone else?
wonder of nature, the beauty of art, and the inspiration of music can
all lift the soul. But none of it holds our hand or speaks affirmation
to us; none of it listens to our pain or provides a Presence in our
suffering; none of it weeps with us or rejoices with us.
comes to us through people.
neighbor functions sacramentally in God’s plan for my life. And who is
my neighbor? Jesus answered that question two millennia ago. The
neighbor is potentially anyone. The terms “people” and “neighbor” share
the same semantic domain in the Kingdom of God.
lest we tend to look through or past those anonymous figures around us,
Jesus declares that there are two commandments that govern all others –
Love God; love others (not just some others but all others).
course, the issue then turns on us. Just when I start to look for grace
from others, to expect affirmation and support from those around me, I
find that in fact Christ calls me to be the sacrament to them. The
sacrament of the neighbor begins with me being the sacrament to my neighbor;
with the Father reaching them through
our neighbor is the holiest object presented to our senses ... particularly
as we open ourselves to be a holy object to them. We become a mutual
sacrament as I resolve to take the first step—which may be as simple as
an interest in knowing (and using) a name. Let’s see (and pray for) the
individuals, not the crowds.