Has Your Neighbor Become Your Greatest Teacher?

by Mark Votava

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When I first moved to my neighborhood ten years ago, I didn’t know very many people.  As the past decade has gone by, I am coming to know and connect with my neighbors more.  I am coming to learn from others around me in my relational context, especially the poor who don’t have much.  My neighbors are revealing to me more of God’s goodness and beauty if I have the imagination to listen by becoming faithfully present in everyday life.

  •  Called to beauty, connection, goodness and love in the parish

If we do not steward our faithful presence, we will not be able to listen and bring incarnational expressions of Christ into our world through the parish imagination.  We are called to be incarnational expressions of the body of Christ together in everyday life by the stewarding of our faithful presence.  We are called to give expression to the life of Christ in our world within the place we inhabit together.  We are called to beauty, connection, goodness and love as the body of Christ in the parish.

  •  Becoming Christ’s hands and feet in the place we inhabit together

Isn’t this what Christ came to bring to the world?  Isn’t this the purpose of the death and resurrection of Christ?  Isn’t this the reason for his teaching, wisdom and incarnation?  We are to be the body of Christ by becoming his hands and feet in the place we inhabit together in everyday life.

  •  Our neighbors become our greatest teachers

When we are stewarding our faithful presence, we become dependent on our neighbors who we love in everyday life.  Our neighbors become our friends.  Our neighbors become our greatest teachers.  We learn and receive just as much from our neighbors, if not more, than we have to give.

  •  Risking vulnerability and uncertainty

Stewarding our presence does not mean we preach the gospel with propositional statements thinking we have all the answers to everything.  In fact, it is almost the opposite.  We begin to listen deeply to our neighbors and risk vulnerability and uncertainty in the place we inhabit together.

  •  Learning and receiving from our neighbors

John B. Hayes states, “We expect to learn from our neighbors and to receive from them.  This is a pivotal point.  In fact, let me go one step further: We expect to become dependent upon our neighbors.”

  •  Listening to our neighbors

As we become dependent on our neighbors, we create more trust, good will, patience and humility toward one another.  It is amazing the reconciliation that can happen when we begin to listen to our neighbors instead of impose on them something they don’t want.  Our neighbors shape our embodiment in the parish.  Valuing our neighbors is how we honor God through the parish imagination.

  •  Stewarding our faithful presence

Stewarding our faithful presence is about the good will of our neighbors in the parish.  Our neighbors cannot be ignored or harmed when we steward our faithful presence together.  In the stewarding of our faithful presence, we can no longer show apathy to our neighbors in the place we inhabit.

Do you think that stewarding our presence in the place we live is important? Please share and comment!