What might an encounter be like if Jesus were to appear at our door? What would we do upon inviting Christ into our home? What stories would we share, what questions would we ask? What would we do in this precious time together? Here is Fritz Karl Hermann von Uhde’s Come, Lord Jesus, be our Guest, a modern take on a biblical scene, bringing such narratives closer to home, and our present day.
The painting depicts the moment of hospitality. In “Christ Sighting: Advent”, Angela Alaimo O’Donnell relates this just as beautifully: “…Christ walks the earth in late / December, peering into houses lit / from within, lifting the lids off stew pots, / tasting the salt and the light with equal / zeal, arriving just in time for the meal, / bread in his left hand, blessing in his right, / drinking wine, hoping to spend the night / in a place where he is greeted and received / a guest….”
That Christ would be comfortable with the poor and needy is seen in Christian Yeo’s “every unbroken thing”, Aldo Joson’s “amidst”, and Catherine Candano’s “In Transits”. Gwee Li Sui’s “Meeting God” lets us in on what we already suspect, that we can encounter God through an act of kindness to a total stranger: “I have a hunch / what God wants from me / is to buy Him lunch. / I think He is asking me / with His eyes….”
What are the limits to our fellowship? Do we really notice the dire need in our own societies—the poor, the infirm, the dejected or destitute? How much do we extend our attention or care to those who belong outside the confines of our own comfort zone, within the fringes and margins?
Do we like to keep to ourselves, sometimes too much so? Perhaps we overcautiously prize our peace and solitude, to preserve the safety of sanctuary both personal and communal, as Thomas Alan Holmes writes: “Now watch me care, inadequate and lost, / just housed, just fed, not comforted but kept / away from friends and music. If I brood, / then I am selfish, focused on the cost / of keeping others from me safe; accept, / O Lord, my shame, my penitential mood.”
Read Luisa A. Igloria’s epistolary poems addressed to “fellow pilgrim”, “heart” and “Life” in “Letter, Fumbling Around in the Dark Again”, “Letter on Sameness and Variation”, and “Sonnet to Fleeing Things” respectively. These delicate professions are counterpointed by the epic journeying of Marjorie Evasco’s “Sumad” where we witness a “boat following the small sacred / Icon, the miraculous Virgin of Guadalupe, / Down Loboc River on the eve of her feast.”
Indeed, what would “Walking With Jesus” be like? Barbara Crooker gives us a clue in her same-titled poem: “… he’s Jesus, so / he loves them anyway… He tells / me that all the commandments are really / about sitting with your neighbors on a wide / front porch, eating peach pie, watching the sun / go down. Why are you still going on about sin / and salvation, he asks me, when you have all this, / right here, right now?”
Fellowship happens in every cenacle, in each gathering of faith-sharing. Ideally, it is a unifying koinonia. Look at the image of Jerusalem’s Cenacle, the upper room where Jesus instituted the Eucharist. There, Jesus washed the apostles’ feet. There, the apostles returned to gather. There, the remaining twelve apostles received the Holy Spirit on Pentecost.
As Jerrold Yam writes in “Communion”: “Can no one / be without a place? Only disciples / survive on his memory, only their / tongues would reel from the welding of flesh and / blood in a mouth, the wafer crumpled / for swallowing, and I am eating / as they ate, and drank, and met again.”