3. Welcome the Stranger
This is the most abstract of the corporal works of mercy. It is easy to picture a man giving food to the poor or cup of water to his neighbor.
But who should we consider a stranger?
This question might seem easy to answer at first; some classes of people are obviously strangers. A man moving into a workplace for a first time, a family moving into to an apartment next door – they are obviously strangers, in need of the support of others as they go through changes in their lives.
But we, as Christians, are called to take a broader view of exactly who is a stranger. For strangers, in the Christian conception, are not merely people that we have never seen before.
Lonely souls are truly strangers. The sorrowful recluse whom everyone sees at a gathering yet ignores – he is a stranger. The homeless man on the street – he is a stranger. The unpopular kid at school mocked by bullies – he is a stranger.
These lonely souls are more in need of help than the obvious strangers, because these people are rejected by most of their fellow men. They are truly strangers, estranged from nurturing human contact.
When discussing this corporal work of mercy, the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) leaps to mind. A scribe asked of Jesus: “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus’s answer – the parable of the Good Samaritan – was simple yet profound; everyone, even those we despise, are our neighbors and in need of our help.
A similarly broad conception of the word stranger applies to this corporal work of mercy. Everyone we meet whom we do not know is a stranger. And God commands us to welcome these men and women - both those whom we do not know and the lonely among us.