If we have encountered Jesus in a personal way, we have encountered the power of love. The challenge is to emulate His love in such a way as to reach out to the marginalized, the addicted, the disadvantaged, the powerless and those engaged in life styles that may be seen, by Christians, as objectively sinful. Jesus didn’t hesitate to reach out to people caught up in the vagaries of life as is evidenced by his recruitment of Mathew as an Apostle, his encounter with the Woman at the Well, his encounter with the Woman caught out in adultery and many other scriptural accounts of His engagement of people who were accused by the religious powers of the day as being outcasts for various reasons.
Too often we fail to respond to the very real needs of others and we manufacture “reasons” for our failure. As Pope Francis said in his “Joy of the Gospel”,
- Sometimes we prove hard of heart and mind; we are forgetful, distracted and carried away by the limitless possibilities for consumption and distraction offered by contemporary society. This leads to a kind of alienation at every level, for “a society becomes alienated when its forms of social organization, production and consumption make it more difficult to offer the gift of self and to establish solidarity between people”.
We don’t need to have “soft feet and hard hearts”. We need to have “soft hearts and hard feet”. The Apostle Paul in his letter to the Galatians [Gal 2: 2-10] clearly set out that it was an important principle of the Pauline Community of the time that they not succumb to the self centered life style of the enveloping pagan community. We need to remind ourselves of this reality as we struggle with a neo-pagan attitude in society that encourages modern forms of social structure, production and consumption that are in principle opposed to our mission which is to be the hands, feet, voice and heart of Jesus to those around us.
Pope Francis puts it succinctly in this quote from the “Joy of the Gospel”
- If we are to share our lives with others and generously give of ourselves, we also have to realize that every person is worthy of our giving. Not for their physical appearance, their abilities, their language, their way of thinking, or for any satisfaction that we might receive, but rather because they are God’s handiwork, his creation. God created that person in his image, and he or she reflects something of God’s glory. Every human being is the object of God’s infinite tenderness, and he himself is present in their lives. Jesus offered his precious blood on the cross for that person. Appearances notwithstanding, every person is immensely holy and deserves our love. Consequently, if I can help at least one person to have a better life, that already justifies the offering of my life. It is a wonderful thing to be God’s faithful people. We achieve fulfilment when we break down walls and our heart is filled with faces and names!
Pope Francis, in his previous incarnations as Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Bishop, Arch-Bishop and Cardinal, became known as the “Bishop of the Slums” for his work among the poor, the marginalized and the disadvantaged in the slums of Buenos Aires.
We are challenged by the Power of Love not to let fear or any other emotion for that matter keep us from encountering our less fortunate brothers and sisters. May we encourage the Canadian government to be generous and open to the plight of Syrian refugees who seek shelter and safety in Canada.