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Hospitality behind a mask

by davesandel on February 5th, 2021

Friday, February 5, 2021                    (today’s lectionary)

Memorial of Saint Agatha, Virgin and Martyr

Hospitality behind a mask

Let your love for each other continue, and do not neglect hospitality. Do not forget to invite strangers in, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels. Blessed are you who keep the word with a generous heart.

Here is an interesting statement from Christine Condo, who calls herself a “high-functioning autistic:”

Before the pandemic, every time I left the house I put on an imaginary “mask” so I could interact with people. I would force smiles and voice inflections and concentrate on making appropriate responses to small talk. But now, I get to wear a physical mask that conceals my autism for me. Staying six feet away from people has reduced the number of small-talk situations I end up in. And for the first time in my life, it has been months since someone asked if I was mad about something because I had forgotten to animate my face.

Perhaps Christine’s relief is no surprise to you. I know I have been grateful at times for my own mask’s protection. On the other hand, as Christine points out, humans “are not designed for social distancing. And not being able to see facial expressions because of masks has been unsettling and upsetting.”

Can I maintain a reasonable level of hospitality, hiding behind a mask, staying six feet away from anyone I don’t know? Not really, not for long. Or can I? Canadian poet-pastor Richard Bott wrote a poem-prayer about masks that some of our fellow spiritual directors shared earlier this week in Peoria.

Creator,

as I prepare to go into the world,

help me to see the sacrament

in the wearing of this cloth –

let it be “an outward sign

of an inward grace” –

a tangible and visible way

of living love for my neighbours,

as I love myself.

 

Christ,

since my lips will be covered,

uncover my heart,

that people would see my smile

in the crinkles around my eyes.

Since my voice may be muffled,

help me to speak clearly,

not only with my words

but with my actions.

 

Holy Spirit,

as the elastic touches my ears,

remind me to listen carefully –

and full of care –

to all those I meet.

May this simple piece of cloth

be shield and banner,

and each breath that it holds,

be filled with your love.

In your Name

and in that love,

I pray.

 

May it be so.

May it be so.

 In Psalm 27 David wants to see God face to face.

My heart says, “Seek his face!” And your face, O Lord, will I seek … Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

But because Jesus does not change, I’m free to adjust to the circumstances of my life. I can wriggle around, remove my mask and put it on again, step toward you and step away, then  settle finally into the same place, but with new patience and new alertness. Because Jesus does not change, I need not be afraid to give myself away.

Today at H.E.B. (the “Texas Proud” grocery chain famous for its philanthropy) a woman just before her in the checkout line looked at Margaret from behind her mask and said sternly, “Step back!” Through her own mask, Margaret said, “Oh, yes, thank you.” And she backed up a couple of steps. The lady glared at her anyway and turned away.

These are the times when hospitality either rises or falls, when Jesus Christ stays the same for me, in this moment when I am tempted to glare back. This is the moment when verses like today’s from Hebrews and Psalm 27 bring my soul back to life:

Say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper and I will not be afraid. What can anyone do to me? The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life and he shall set me on a rock.”

(Hebrews 13, Psalm 27, Luke 8, Mark 6)

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