Invitation: Interlopers Welcome

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A couple years ago, this little gray striped cat started hanging out on our back porch. If you sat on the steps, she would lie next to you and scoot closer until you petted her. She was pretty and friendly and maybe most importantly she didn’t trigger any of the allergies that prevented us from keeping a cat in the house.

One afternoon she was purring with a little more urgency than usual and looking into the kitchen. Both of us had Italian grandmothers, so naturally we fed her. We emptied a can of tuna into a bowl and set it out. She wolfed it down. After that, Miss Susan Moochie (yep that’s what we call her) was a  daily visitor. We started buying tuna and cat food to be ready for her visits. We even rotated brands and flavors when she seemed to lose interest.

After a while, a couple other cats started showing up. These two were a little more wild and had no interest in meeting us. One was white with gray markings. We called it The Nemesis. The other was almost all black and we just called it The Other One. Together they were… The Interlopers. Miss Susan Moochie didn’t like to eat when The Interlopers were around. We didn’t want them around harassing our Miss Susan, so we’d shoo them away. As soon as she was done eating we brought her leftovers into the house.

Little by little, Miss Susan started skipping a day here or there, or leaving more than half the food untouched. The Interlopers were persistent, and seemed hungry. When the weather started to turn cold, we felt a little bad for them, and stopped taking in the leftovers. The Nemesis and The Other One consistently finished off whatever was in the bowl. Gradually, Miss Susan weaned herself off our company and generosity. We can only assume it was because she didn’t care for the continuing presence of The Interlopers.

Now we feed the Interlopers when they show up. The Nemesis will let me pet it once in a while, but never for long. The Other One has never even been close enough to bite the hand that feeds it. They aren’t the cats we wanted, but they are faithful and in need. Probably they are faithful because they are in need.

I don’t particularly like The Interlopers, but that felt like a pretty darn hypocritical reason not to feed them. After all, in Matthew and Luke Jesus says: “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them.” That got me thinking about people and church and communities. We are sad when the “right” people move on because the “wrong” people — usually people who have less than we do or are unfamiliar to us — have invaded our church, or neighborhood, or country.

We are called to love the people who do not love us. Christ invites everyone to the table, and we’re not going to love them all. Some people may harass us and others may not speak to us. Some may seem like they’re only showing up to take and not to give. We don’t get to pick and choose who Christ feeds. Jesus is the host and whether we showed up to the party first or last, dressed to the nines or looking like we don’t care, we are his guests and arrive on equal terms. We are all interlopers to someone. How fortunate for us Jesus is the one with the can opener.

The Peace of Christ be with you.

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