Sunday, Sept. 7, 2014
in Ordinary Time
Psalm 95:1-2, 6-9
I have several relatives and friends who love a good fight. I don't mean that they engage in physical violence, but if there's an opportunity to debate a controversial topic (religion and politics come to mind), they're in the middle of the fray.
Not so with me. When it comes to "flight or fight," I'm content to leave the room or become an unobtrusive bystander so I can avoid getting involved.
But as I write this, I am aware of a number of places in the world where multitudes of people don't have that luxury.
The United Nations reports that the number of citizens forced to flee their homes due to civil unrest and criminal activity has climbed to 50 million -- half of them children -- the highest number since World War II.
As with the current refugee crisis at our own borders, there are no easy or perfect solutions, so the responses generally range from moral paralysis to rancorous argument.
Today's Gospel instructs us to treat recalcitrant, unrepentant brothers as one would treat a "gentile or a tax collector."
The normal human response and perfectly legal solution would be to cast him out of the community altogether.
But throughout the Gospel, Jesus ate with tax collectors and healed gentiles, restoring their dignity through love and kindness.
Whatever one's political leanings or opinions, it serves us well to view our current issues regarding refugees and immigration by asking the same questions implied in the Gospel -- remembering that Jesus has delegated to us both the power and the task of binding the evils of violence and persecution while loosening the burdens of oppression.
Who is my "neighbor"? What is my responsibility toward him or her? What does the law of love call for in this situation? How can I contribute a voice of compassion and reason amid the insanity of public demonstrations, obnoxious blog posts, and general misinformation? Is there some action I can and should take?
The first step, according to the psalmist, is to "harden not your hearts" to the Lord's voice or toward those who are suffering. Jesus does not give me the option of "unobtrusive bystander"; I am already involved by being a member of his body.
This column is offered in cooperation with The North Texas Catholic of Fort Worth, Texas.