Encounter in the Wilderness

Encounter in the Wilderness

By Sister Stefanie MacDonald, OSB

"I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me." (Matthew 25:35)

I am on retreat this week at a place called Christ in the Wilderness outside of Stockton, IL. I am staying in a hermitage. What a pretty place!

Yesterday was my day of encounter. As I was getting ready for the day, I looked out the window and saw a beautiful little fawn with white spots all over her body. I couldn't move.

Later that afternoon, as I sat outside on a swing, she came up behind me. Again, I was transfixed.

I met her mother, too, as she munched greenery on a trail I walked on after supper.

All beautiful encounters.

Saying "yes" to encounters is key to Christ's hospitality. Without encountering others, we don't even have an opportunity to be hospitable.

Encounters allow us the chance to be hospitable, and to learn and grow in love and compassion from that encounter.

When I have an encounter with a Benedictine elder, for example, I practice hospitality by listening. I learn so much! How to persevere in this way of life, for example. About her call and history, and our shared history and traditions.

I learn to be compassionate as she deals with the struggles of aging.

I learn to give of self as well. I share who I am - my joys and anxieties, my energy and hopes. I share my call.

We welcome others to be who they are with us, and offer our true selves to them. 

Through encounters - at home and at school, in grocery store lines and parking lots - we encounter Jesus. We have the opportunity to offer hospitality to Jesus.

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