Women’s World Day of Prayer 2013
Women’s World Day of Prayer, 2013
‘I was a stranger & you welcomed me…’
Women’s World Day of Prayer is celebrated on Sunday 9 February, 2013. The theme for this year is “I was a stranger and you welcomed me…” and is written by the Christian women of France. a service is being televised live on RTE to mark the occasion. For further information on this celebration please see http://wdopi.org/ and the information booklet for World Day of Prayer 2013.
Please see below a reflection by Helen Young of the Irish Episcopal Council for Immigrants.
‘I was a stranger and you welcomed me’. Matthew presents this Gospel story as Jesus’ final teaching before his Passion. There, he is rejected as a stranger, a stranger to people’s expectations as he overturned traditional notions of God and scandalously reached out to those society shunned. But in his death he is to totally identify himself with them, he is the poor and the stranger and our salvation comes from them.
Who are the ‘strangers’ then in our society?
In 2011 non-Irish nationals made up 12% of the resident population, coming from 199 different nations and a multitude of different situations. There are the ‘success stories’, but sadly this is far from everyone’s experience.
Consider a recent article in the national press, describing the problems faced by asylum seekers and the negative effects of the current system on themselves and their children. You welcomed me?
Consider too the victims of human trafficking, something known to be widespread throughout this country, the exploitation of domestic workers, the sadness of migrant women who, whilst working as carers here, have had to leave their own children back home in the care of someone else. You welcomed me?
Consider too the long hours and low pay, the many subtle forms of discrimination… You welcomed me?
Yet these are the people with whom Jesus identifies, welcoming them is to welcome him.
Scripture tells us that we are all made in the image and likeness of God. As I look into the face of someone other-than-me therefore, I see, as if in a mirror, both my own reflection and that of God. I do not become the other any more than the other becomes me but in this two-way mirror the other and I, we both perceive our true identity, people called to relationship.
This is the challenge of hospitality, an active first step towards the other that allows for, in the words of John O’Donohue, the ‘transfiguration of anonymity into intimacy and presence’. It offers community, where in the sharing of the simplest everyday events and concerns, something deeper happens: the ‘host’ becomes the ‘guest’ and the ‘guest’ the host’.
Being part of a community means learning to live with the dignity of difference in mutual love and respect, and a way of participation that develops everyone’s sense of belonging.
In her recent memoir, Everybody Matters, former President Mary Robinson, refers to an African ideal of human connectedness and solidarity, described by Archbishop Tutu as ‘I am because you are’.
The strangers among us in the community of this country, its towns and townlands, are a constant reminder of this reality: Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireann na daoine – it is in the shadow of each other that people live, and I would add, where God dwells.