Deacon Tony reflects: walk by on the other side?

As this month of January draws to a close, we have been asked in the secular world to remember two examples of human nature which happened in the last century.  In America they celebrated Martin Luther King Day, commemorating that great Civil Rights campaigner whose actions and eventual martyrdom contributed towards a greater awareness for people around the world that we are all part of the Human Race.  He was killed because there were some who could not accept that truth.

We also have had in the past week, Holocaust Memorial Day, when the world marked the anniversary of Auschwitz being freed towards the end of the 2nd World War.  The people slaughtered in Auschwitz and the other camps had been targeted because of hatred of people who were different.  This saw millions of people being bundled out of the towns they lived in by their neighbours and Government officials and sent off to death camps to either be killed or used as slave labour to support the people who persecuted them.

In our Gospel today we have Jesus preaching the truth, the listeners were very happy when they heard parts of the message they agreed with; winning their approval however, the people in the synagogue did not appreciate the truth relating to a prophet in his own town; they were enraged and hustled him out of the town intending to do him harm.

Contrast this with the message of love we hear from St Paul in today’s second reading.  This reading which is often used at weddings to highlight the love of the couple pledging their lives to one another.  The Greek word used for love in the context St Paul was using was ‘agape’. Agape is a type of love which means a giving of oneself, putting the other before oneself.  Agape is totally ‘other centred’. Therefore, it’s use in matrimony is warranted, because in Marriage we should put our spouse’s needs before our own.  But St Paul is also telling us that as Christians we should apply that type of love to our neighbour.

The examples used in St Paul’s reading could form a comprehensive list for when we go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation and need to examine our conscience.  When was I not patient?  Who am I jealous of? That time when I was boastful? Who do I need to ask forgiveness of because I was conceited, rude or arrogant towards them?  When did I feel superior because I judged I was better than others?  When did I take pleasure in other people sinning?  Did I commend anyone for standing up to the truth?  Did I forgive those who sinned against me?  Do I trust, do I inspire hope in others to accept God’s will?  All of these questions used as an examination of conscience can help us to improve our relationship with Jesus and our neighbour.  We could use them at the end of the day or as I said in preparation for the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

If everyone could read St Paul’s words properly and understand them, then racial hatred would have ended a long time ago.  If the people in 1930’s Germany had read these words and understood them then the 2nd World War may never have happened; and the millions of people slaughtered could have been saved.  If we ignore hatred, if we ignore lies and propaganda then it can have a snowball effect.  What ‘is none of my business’ today will come knocking at our door tomorrow.  As Christians we have a duty to love our neighbour; we cannot walk on the other side of the road when people are suffering.

The prophet Jeremiah indicates that those who stand up for what is right will be rewarded.  God will protect those who stand up for what is right as he says ‘They will fight against you, but shall not overcome you, for I am with you to deliver you – it is the Lord who speaks.’

As we live here in North Hampshire in 2022, what are the things going on which are ‘none of my business’ at the moment?  Who is being persecuted in our country at the moment?  Who is ‘the injured Samaritan lying by the roadside’ elsewhere in the world at the moment?  Is it the refugees still trying to get into the UK?  Is it the people struggling to decide whether to heat their homes or feed their families?  Is it the other countries struggling to roll out a vaccine programme or feed their people?

If we stand back or walk on the other side of the road while our neighbour needs us, then we will be judged for our lack of action.  As we say in the prayer during the Penitential Act when we confess the things we have done and the things we have failed to do?  How often when we are requested to contact our MP about an injustice or a Bill which is contrary to Christian teaching do we make the time to do it? In other words, putting our faith into action.

No matter how many times a lie is told, it is still a lie.  No matter how irritated or angry someone gets about the truth it is still the truth.  The people in the synagogue that day when Jesus spoke were irritated by the truth.  As Christians we are called to share the truth, deny the lies that satan sews in the hearts of people.  We are all called to search our hearts and our minds and decide what are the things I am failing to do today?  Do I do enough to help the downtrodden?  Do I do enough to help the environment? Do I do enough for others to recognise I am a Christian?  

Our response to this is key to building up God’s Kingdom, as the words addressed by God to Jeremiah in the first reading today apply to us too; “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you came to birth I consecrated you; I have appointed you…so now brace yourself for action.”

Further Reading

Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC)

CCC 436, 1241, 1546: Christ as prophet
CCC 904-907: our participation in Christ’s prophetic office
CCC 103-104: faith, the beginning of eternal life
CCC 1822-1829: charity
CCC 772-773, 953: communion in the Church
CCC 314, 1023, 2519: those in heaven behold God face to face

Please keep in your prayers

  • Those who are sick, those recovering from surgery, those who are dying, the recently deceased and those who mourn.  
  • The Year of the Eucharist, that this will lead to a fresh outpouring of love by the people of God for the Body and Blood of Christ.
  • The listening stage of the 16th Synod of Bishops which is entitled “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission” that all Catholics will take part. 
  • All those working for Christian unity.
  • For Persephone, Luca and Emilio who are being baptised this weekend in Holy Ghost Parish.
  • Those preparing for and attending the Big Picture sessions on Mondays.
  • Those attending the RCIA course at St Bede’s on Wednesdays.
  • Those preparing for and attending the Confirmation classes in St Bede’s next Friday.