Reimagining God in the Face of Our Neighbors

by Mark Votava


I am discovering that Christ is reborn in the face of my neighbors that I encounter in everyday life in the place I live.  This is fascinating, frightening and wonderful.  When I learn to see my neighbor, I learn to become aware of Christ’s presence in the world.

  •  Being present to our neighbors

It is now the work of all of us to be the hands and feet of Jesus to our context of the world.  To love ourselves well is to love our neighbors well too.  When we live a life of reflection and rest, this brings greater capacity to be present to Christ through being present to our neighbors.  In this encounter we experience the reality of God through the face of our neighbors.

  •  Neighbors teach me of the divine

How wonderful it is for me to experience the goodness of God through a kind word, an affirming encounter or meaningful work together with a neighbor who is teaching me of the divine by their very presence.  I also learn of the divine through times when neighbors frustrate me or treat me less than human.  This calls me to greater responsibility of forgiveness, humility and compassion within myself.  And God has called me to be an expression of love for all people in the world with the divine nature of compassion that lives within me.

  •  Compassion lives in all of us

This compassion lives in all of us because we are create in the image of God, who is compassion and love in essence.  Compassion is the greatest value we can express in our world.  Compassion is stronger than violence, fear and hatred.  A lot of the times, compassion is experienced as a give and take through ourselves and our neighbors in everyday life.

  •  Loving God in the place we inhabit

Loving our neighbors in the parish is why we practice refection and rest.  This is how we become human.  This is how we love God in the place we inhabit together.  There is no way around this.

  • God cannot escape us in the form of our neighbors

We are called to be an expression of love.  Our reflection and rest is only authentic if we love our neighbors in everyday life together.  Within our locality, God cannot escape us in the form of our neighbors.  Our neighbors are all around us.  God is working within us and all around us constantly.

  •  This mysterious working in and around us

Our humanity becomes sensitive to this mysterious working in and around us.  Our reflection and rest helps us to reimagine this mystery.  Our reflection and rest embraces God through the diverse faces of our neighbors.  This is the way of Jesus.  This is the path of wisdom.

  • Seeing others as they are

Ken Gire in his book Seeing What is Sacred writes, “To better love God and other people is the goal of the reflective life.  But before we can love them, we must see them.  And we must see them not as we would like to see them or as they would like to be seen.  We must see them as they are.  Otherwise we don’t love the person.  We love the image we perceive the person to be.  If we are to love people as they are, we must see them as they are.  Which means seeing all that lies hidden within them.”

Have you learned to practice seeing in others the image of God?