Respecting God in the other is the only way out of the spiral of violence.

July 29, 2016 at 1:48 pm Leave a comment

Each day, we seem to be exposed to more and more stories and reports of terrible violence committed that is planned, calculated and pre-meditated.  One only knows how numb one is to the horror that we can afflict to another human being when one reads of the unbelievable carnage done and turns the pages of the newspaper with hardly any reaction of surprise, shock, sadness or empathy.

Animals who see the rotting carcasses of their own species walk pass them with little reaction.  To expect more from them would be imposing human standards of feelings and sympathy onto beings that have not been endowed with a conscience.  But we know that there is something terribly wrong with us as a race of humans when we see reports or instances of people maimed, shot, bombed or mowed down by a truck, and do little more than lament that there is something wrong with the world.  Do we see ourselves as the priest or the Levite who walked by the half-dead man in the parable of the Good Samaritan?

Perhaps there are too many of us who think that we are just too insignificant to make any impact on a global scale as a single human being.  Unless we are people who have some global clout or who hold some position of power and authority, our little ways of living and working in our office, our neighbourhood or small social circles can hardly make a difference to change or stop these from happening.  With blinkers on our eyes, causing us to narrow our vision, we could justify our unwillingness to live differently.

Those of us who are Christians, especially Catholics who understand the impact and depth of what it means to be a living part of the global and universal organism known as the Body of Christ, cannot afford to be lackadaisical in this regard.  Small and seemingly insignificant actions of charity, forgiveness, hospitality and mercy done to even one other human being has a much larger effect than meets the eye.  We must believe what Jesus says in Matthew 25 is true when he says “whatever you do to the least of my brethren, you do it to me”.  This has to affect the way that we treat each person we meet in the pathways of our lives.  The one problem we all share as a broken Body of Christ is that we have very limited definitions of who makes up this ‘least of my brethren’.  Most of us have no qualms being merciful to those who are merciful to us, being kind to those who are kind to us, and being generous with those who are generous with us.  It’s those who do not fit into these categories that make this a very great challenge, and it is most likely that it is when these are the beneficiaries of the extension of our love and care that God takes extra delight in.

The Christ-follower has a divine reason to want to try to extend love to the stranger and the one who has fallen through the cracks of life.  The divine reason is that in the person lives the very image of God whom he or she is made in the likeness of.  No other religion upholds this dignity of the human person with the same loftiness and excellence.  This has to be one very compelling reason why and how Christ is the savior of the world.  It is when his image is valued and honoured and treated with dignity that peace can be restored – a peace that the world cannot give.

As a confessor, I often hear confessions of so many people (men and women, adults and young people alike) who find themselves so beguiled by the evil of pornography.  When time permits, I ask them if they are only interested in getting God to forgive them of their sin, or if they are willing to do the hard work that it takes to see this sin for what it is, and render it more and more powerless over them.

The way I see it, whether it is trying to stop hate-violence on a global level, or self-violence on a seemingly private level (as in the case of self-destruction through pornography addiction), it has very much to do with the way that we see our fellow man and woman. The trouble is often that we do not pause to see that the other person is more than just who he or she is to us.  This needs explication.

If the person before me isn’t seen and appreciated for more than just who he or she is in relation to me and my self-serving or self-protecting purposes, I am not honouring the fact that just like me, that he or she has a mother, a father, probably a sibling or more, could have nephews and nieces, grandparents who dote and cherish him or her, and want to be proud of his or her being in the world.  This expands and deepens the reality of the person and invites me to consider him or her more than just for what he or she is in that flat dimension devoid of his or her entirety.

The vice-gripped world of pornography flattens the person and robs him or her of her depth, and what is sold or presented blatantly negates and ignores this.  It is often saying “use him or her solely for your pleasure”.  The director, the photographer and the industry (porn, drug, slave, insert the applicable) at large has already robbed and stripped him or her of all her deep worth as a child of God.  They make it easy to forget and ignore that this person also has the dignity of being a loved child of a mother and father, a brother or a sister, or even possibly a parent of a child or several children.  The person is seen as having only one-dimension.  This of course, is a lie, but millions and millions buy into it. Why?  Possibly because it takes too much effort to realize the intrinsic worth and dignity of the other.  It is way easier (and more convenient) to use another person for one’s personal and selfish benefit.

The same applies to the foreigner, the refugee or the person with special needs.  It is only when we pause to see that each person, each individual has a worth that is more than what meets the eye (a threat, one who is taking away what I am entitled to, one who doesn’t deserve or who isn’t entitled to my same privileges in life), that I know that I cannot be justified in dismissing his or her basic and human needs.

I am more and more convinced that the true contemplative mind is the one which is given the important ‘hermeneutical flashlight’ to see beyond what is apparent and physically visible.  This term ‘hermeneutical flashlight’ is used astutely by Ronald Rolheiser in his groundbreaking book ‘The Shattered Lantern’ to refer to the way that the contemplative mind is given the insight to peer beyond the surface knowledge of reality, where hermeneutics is understood as the deeper interpretation of Biblical texts.  So, when one applies a ‘hermeneutical flashlight’, one opens up one’s way of looking past and into the reality of what and who is before one.  Because it changes the way the seer sees reality; it also changes the seer himself.

I attach a video of a song which I had recently come across, powerfully depicting the message of our shared dignity as children of God.  The lyrics are appended below to help you to appreciate the depth and essence of the song.

This is a son – by Jody McBrayer

No one looks him in the eye

No one dares to take the time

We only see him as the guilty and the shameless

We write him off as wasted and nameless

This is a son

He has a mother

He is a child

Maybe a brother

This is a heart

This is a soul in need of love

To see beyond

the awful things that life has done

This is a son

He knows how it feels to hurt

He thinks this is what he’s worth

He knows we see him as the guilty and the shameless

and write him off as wasted and nameless

This is a son

He has a mother

He is a child

Maybe a brother

This is a heart

This is a soul in need of love

to see beyond

the awful things that life has done

This is a son

Mother Mary stands beneath the cross

Staring up in utter disbelief

and as the angry crowd screams out in hate

she whispers through her tears and through her grief

This is a son

He has a mother

He is my child

He is your brother

He has a heart for every soul in need of love

To see beyond the awful things that you have done

This is a son

This is a son

This is a son

A Post-Script

I do realise that what I have written and shared today in this blog may be rather esoteric, and may fail to appeal to the masses.  I would be naïve to think that this type of reflection has a strong following.  But here is where I am appealing to your charity as a reader to help me grow and develop as a writer and a thinker.

Your comment is appreciated.  It always is.  I have mentioned to some circles that I had intentions to stop these weekly reflections, and invariably I get the response that my writings are being read and being forwarded. What would help me sustain this solo effort is when I am able to respond to your reactions.  Any feedback is useful as it tells me several things – the helpfulness of the topic chosen for the week, the language used, the relevance to you as a reader, etc.  

Posting these reflections on Facebook is my way of reaching a larger audience, but I am not so much interested in your ‘liking’ what I post.  Please do not just ‘like’ this.  It makes no difference to me (and I say this with no intention to sound arrogant or egotistic – it truly doesn’t make a difference to me as a writer).  What makes me continue to pursue this effort of mine is when I know that it creates in my readers a willingness to expand and enlarge their hearts, and to live out the challenges to be part of the organic Body of Christ. Can I ask that you do not just ‘forward’ these, not just ‘share’ these or ‘like’ these, but that you take some time to pause, reflect, and then with some deliberation, make a personal comment about the piece.  It doesn’t have to be a comment that agrees with what I have written.  It could be a question, a clarification, a reaction or just a thought to add.  My improvement as a thinker and a praying person is when I can take negative feedback and look at it as something that moulds, shapes and forms my future thinking.  Writing without any feedback is supremely challenging, and I am appealing to your assisting me to improve and deepen – as a writer, as a priest, and as a person.  God bless you.

Posted by Fr Luke Fong at 6:00 AM

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Entry filed under: Inspiring Faith.

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