St. Alphonsus Rodriguez, born in the 16th century, longed to become a priest after much personal tribulation and deep sadness. He lost his wife, children and mother all within a 4 year span and then sought to enter the Jesuit order, but was denied entrance twice. When they finally admitted him, it was as a brother.
He ended up at a seminary on the Spanish island of Majorca where he was assigned the task of doorkeeper. And in this lowly position, he would come to know and influence the lives of many young seminarians and priests, minister to the poor, and be the welcoming face of brotherly love to all who entered. His humility and his devotion to the Lord made a deep impression on many.
According to author and fellow Jesuit, Hedwig Lewis, “Rodriguez displayed unconditional discipleship to Jesus Christ. He was a brother and companion, serving all as he would Christ personified. “I’m coming Lord,” he would cry when someone knocked. He had personalized his spirituality, and this is what gave depth, appeal and credibility to his convictions.”
I love the way Alphonsus viewed every visitor, every stranger, and no doubt, any friend, as Jesus, as his Lord. That’s something we should all try to do. Jesus does tell us that whatever we do for “the least of these,” we do for Him. So, Jesus expects no less of us than He did of sweet Alphonsus. The blessed doorkeeper shows us how it’s done. What if we pray to see Jesus in our spouse and in our children, in our parents, our siblings, and our friends? What if we, like Alphonsus, strive to see Jesus in the strangers we encounter, the marginalized, and the ones who have no voice?
Not only because I spoke recently about detachment and so had this on my mind, but because I had to research a theologian for my graduate course, Intercultural Theology, and learned a lot about political theology, I was reminded of Alphonsus Rodriguez today.
Political theology, according to its founder, Johann Metz, is about solidarity with the oppressed and the outcasts, the vanquished. In my presentation to my class I talked about how Metz lamented that “the present misery of our Christianity is not that we are considered as fools and rebels too often, but rather, practically never.”
A fool for Christ doesn’t care what the world thinks of him or her. A fool for Christ yearns only to please the Lord. And when you fight against the accepted norms, when you swim upstream, you will be called many things, including a fool. When you find Jesus in everyone you meet and treat them all with the dignity they deserve, with patience, and, yes, love, a lot of people will not believe you’re sincere. You can’t worry about them.
If you have to speak out to defend someone who others don’t find worthy of their time or consideration, let alone their respect and love, you’ll be derided as a fool. Love that person anyway. Love the critics, too. And run to the door when anyone knocks with an, “I’m coming, Lord!” And remember that the One who unconditionally loves everyone, is smiling because of you!