“He Made them Welcome” By Jessica Leguizamon, Fiat Ventures

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

Name one person in your life that reminds you of feeling welcomed. Maybe in the way they say your name, in their eyes, with their heart, or even in the way they hug you. Now, once you’ve chosen that one person, think about what makes them that way. What is it about them that makes you feel welcomed?

As I started to think about my person, a few came to mind at first, but after some careful deliberation there was one person that really hit the nail on the head. God. Now I know what you’re thinking, “Jess, of course you’re going to say God, you have to say that.” Let me share something with you. My whole life, I heard about God and what He’s capable of doing. I always heard about Him, heard of Him etc. But that’s my point – I never took the step to see Him, feel Him, know Him – until I started college. When my encounter with God transformed from just hearing about Him to seeing Him, feeling Him and knowing Him, He became my best friend.

A relationship with God always felt so daunting as a child and even into my high school life. It felt like something that I wasn’t good enough to have, or even deserved. It felt like something I was too young to understand. It wasn’t until I started actively going to Adoration that I started to see Him. It wasn’t until I started choosing to love others instead of expecting the worst from everyone, that I started to feel Him. It wasn’t until I started to actually read the Bible that I began to know Him. These are things that all your catechists probably told you to do every year of faith formation until you finally were Confirmed and got out of there. You might be thinking that these are cliche, or that I’m full of nonsense. And that’s okay. Because even in the midst of that doubt, uncertainty or even disbelief, God still welcomes you into a relationship with Him. All it takes is for you to see, feel, and know.

In this Sunday’s gospel, Jesus is showing the perfect display of God’s never-ending love. “But the crowds got to know, and they went after him. He made them welcome and talked to them about the kingdom of God; and he cured those who were in need of healing (Luke 9:11-17). Believe it or not, in this moment, Jesus saw these people, felt their belief, and knew of their faith. He didn’t need them to prove anything, didn’t ask for their history of sin, heck, I don’t even think he asked for their names. He just loved. He just welcomed. And He just embraced. If you ask me, that’s best friend material.

Think back to that person who makes you feel welcomed. What were the attributes that caused that feeling of comfort? Now imagine God in place of them. God plants those seeds of love, openness, and embrace in others around us. In times when we need it most. The reason it’s God behind those attributes and not just your person, is because we are made in the image and likeness of God. We have God in us. It’s because of Him, that we have good. It’s because of Him, that we love and feel pain for others. He’s the one who taught us to treat others the way we want to be treated. My experience with God wasn’t anything like me showing up to Church and dabbing Him up like, “What’s up Lord, how you doin?” good ole jersey style. No. The way God welcomed me was through my mom always hearing me out and praying with me, and by providing me with an amazing Catholic community of other college students on the very campus I live on today. The way God showed up for me was through my oldest sister cooking me warm meals during the week because God knew I didn’t have any food in my college apartment to feed myself for that week. God embraced me through my girl friends who noticed I smiled a few less times than I usually do one day and showed up to my apartment with brownies because they knew those were my favorite pick-me-up treat. God loved me through waking me up to the sound of birds chirping because He knew that was my favorite way to wake up in the morning.

You see what I’m getting at? There are good people because God is alive, real and true. In the rest of that Gospel reading, the disciples are coming up to Jesus and telling Him that there’s not enough food to eat and Jesus just says to group these people together. He doesn’t tell them His plan, or that He’s about to perform a miracle. He just does. He just provides. He just welcomes.       

You might be noticing what today’s date is, June 19th, 2022. Today marks 157 years since the end of slavery for African Americans. More properly known as Juneteenth. A federal holiday that has been celebrated since 1865 and is recognized as the moment in history when black Americans were emancipated from slavery. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that on this very day, our readings reflect on a peak moment of Jesus’s life where the world begins to know of His promise of salvation for the Jews, who were, at the time, under the control of the Romans. If God is good, and makes people good, don’t we owe it to ourselves and our communities to allow Him to make us good as well? To free us from the grasp of society’s evil discrimination, selfishness, and hate. So that we can mirror that love, openness, and welcoming attitude towards those around us. To offer healing through relationship, like Jesus did that very day mentioned in the Gospel reading. We are still healing and moving away from chains of corruption, control, and bondage. Jesus exemplifies the love, passion, justice, and commitment we must give back to our communities and those around us in order begin creating deep, powerful change within ourselves and society. Just like our person does for us just by a mere glance, embrace or word. The more we see Him, feel Him, and know Him the better we become as we follow His example. The less likely we are to turn away from others and the more likely we are to welcome people with open arms into our hearts and our lives. This will make a difference in the world as Jesus intended it to. It will have an impact beyond what we can see and know.

This might be a long-winded reflection on how important it is that we are kind to one another and seek to be good through the power of God in our hearts, but don’t you think all of us could take a moment today and reflect on just that? I challenge you today, to think about your person that makes you feel welcome. Think about them, and how God might even have a sliver of a role in that goodness and then take a moment and pray for God to put the same welcoming kindness into your own heart. So that we can also aim to be that for those around us. To choose to love others instead of expecting the worst. To seek God in times when we feel our lowest. To know that He is the answer to all things.

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