Pope Francis identifies this vicious circle of suspicion and cruelty that needs to be overcome if we wish to repair a fractured world through fraternal care. Although we have concrete experiences that explain some suspicions of certain others, letting these suspicions develop into an attitude of stranger-blaming only hardens the ‘walls and citadels’ of indifference and hate. This weakens the spirit of benevolence and leads us to retreat within our group of ‘associates’ instead of motivating us to reach out and make neighbours out of strangers-in-need. This is exacerbated in cases of cultural and racial divides, a reality with which Jesus was all too familiar. He broke through the wall between Jews and Samaritans by his engagement with the Samaritan woman, and in highlighting as a moral exemplar a Samaritan who attended to a wounded and abandoned Jew in his famous parable. Here, the spirit of charity, which begins with the individual, is manifested in the public realm as the face of hospitality.
In the first reading for Gaudete Sunday,  Isaiah narrates how the Lord has called him to ‘bring glad tidings to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners’. These clusters of strangers-in-need are the chosen beneficiaries of the ‘year of favour from the Lord’. A similar calling is heard by John, who was asked to prepare the way of the Lord and baptise those who want to be reconciled with God but found God ‘inaccessible’ because they were outcasts, deemed impure by the law. Today, this same ‘voice crying out in the desert’, the spirit of the Lord, is inviting us to overcome our suspicions, to break the walls that imprison our hearts, and, in freedom, to be part of the ongoing mission of reconciliation. In particular, the call is to go beyond our comfort zones and help to build hospitable communities that make neighbours out of strangers-in-need.