By Fr. Matthew Pasi Madziva
Zimbabwe is defined by its way of receiving visitors be they locals or foreigners. Oscar Wermter rightly noted that hospitality is Zimbabwe’s second nature. This is despite the fact that when one visits some families one can find on the wall poster or card written “some bring happiness to this house by their coming and others by leaving.” Visitors generally bring joy with them and new life to the people whom they visit. This is despite the fact that they may come empty handed or with baskets full of groceries. Their coming is nonetheless of great value. The visitor may bring unity to a family on the verge of division, on a couple stressed by the pending divorce or on people who are always visited by unhappiness as a result of economic challenges.
The presence of Coronavirus, of course, comes as a challenge to both the visitor and to the host. Our consolation is that there is always a way, as lawyers say. For us too, the pandemic though it is a cause of concern it should never reduce us to something else other than human beings, Zimbabweans and Africans who have embraced Jesus, the Gospel and his way. The Lord visits us in our condition, our environment and our context to bring us closer to him. We make by conferment the story of Zaccheus up a tree (cf. Lk 19:3), the story of the woman of Samaria (cf. Jn 4:4-26), the story of Elijah, the widow, her son and the dwindling resources (1 Kgs17:7-16).
Home visits have a special meaning to the People of God. Zaccheus promised a change of heart when he received Jesus in his house, “Behold, half of my possessions, Lord, I shall give to the poor, and if I have extorted anything from anyone I shall repay it four times over” (Lk 19:8). These are but some of the benefits of home visits on the people themselves. Home visits by the priest or any of the pastoral workers or simply any mupikiri yield positive results. A home visit can achieve more than a Sunday homily. A home visit leaves a lifelong impression on the memory of the Christian faithful.
Some diseases and challenges want us to be touched, spoken to and listened to from the comforts of our homes, and our environment. Home visits can be one of the many ways to make all participate in the synodal Church, especially those who cannot say their opinions in the presence of a crowd. Pope Francis exhorts us to abandon the stay away culture as he asks the Church to go out and meet the people. The Sacred Scriptures remind us of a “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world” (James 1:27).
This becomes of pastoral value because it nourishes the spiritual life of the people of God. Home visits restore meaning of life among the faithful in despair, confusion and doubt. They may be prompted by the Holy Spirit like Zaccheus to make a pledge to serve people better in their jobs, businesses and/or political lives. It becomes significant because evangelization will take place, and liturgy in the form of sacrament of reconciliation when the visit is done by a priest and the home becomes the chapel so to speak and a place of prayer and peace. Catechesis at some low level may also take place as people ask questions pertinent to their faith, thereby enriching the families with basic pastoral activities. Home visits change perceptions for better.
The mandate of Christ to his disciples is better understood in the light of visiting homes. “Go into the whole world and preach the Gospel” (Mk 16:15). Jesus himself championed this cause through, first, the visit we have through his incarnation, the word became flesh and dwelt among us (cf.Jn 1:14) and he also visited the people in their own homes, his visit to Martha and Mary is one such, (cf. Lk 10:38-42). This visit was both a catechesis to both the Marthas and Marys of this world and their constituencies. Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle in Telling the Story of Jesus (2015), says, “Christian life is defined by an encounter with Jesus.” The faithful encounter Jesus in the visiting priest or religious who revives their drooping spirits, ’fireless marriages’ their love for the Church and Jesus Christ. How can home visits show the synodal Church in view of communion, participation and mission? Are homes not the natural embodiment of a synodal Church?