Recently, I was afforded an opportunity to speak with a man who critically railed against the U.S. bishops and the church for their stances on immigration, health care, poverty, and a myriad of other issues. During the course of our conversation, I began to think of how inconsiderate and disrespectful the man was becoming because the church didn’t espouse his unjust perspectives about treating people with respect.
After our conversation, I began to consider the division felt in many of our communities. As I reflected on the widespread lack of civility in politics, the lack of respect for the human person with whom we come into contact in everyday life, and the overall lack of affording people dignity simply by hearing their cries, I thought, “If we don’t step up and speak out, we would be allowing others to open wide the gates of injustice.” We must step up and speak out against the actions of those who seek to divide our communities. We can no longer tolerate those who use sacred Scripture out of context to advance an agenda that violates human dignity.
|Visiting the Diocese of Buffalo and the Diocese of Saint Catharines, Ontario
Jesus was masterful in turning things around on the Pharisees. He easily refocused the challenges of the Pharisees through wholesale and indiscriminate inclusion to expose their interpretation of God’s law. This interpretation is judged to be an avowal of advocacy, adherence or allegiance expressed in words, but not backed by deeds. In the Gospel, we find the Pharisees challenging the Lord by asking, “Why do your disciples not follow the tradition of the elders, but instead eat a meal with unclean hands?” (Mk 7:5). Jesus responds succinctly with Isaiah’s prophesy about hypocrites who not only honor the Lord with their lips, teaching as doctrine human precepts, but also have hearts that are far from the Lord.
Dear friends, we should not cry, “Lord, Lord,” while dehumanizing our brothers and sisters who need us. We cannot merely close off our ears to those who cry out to us in pain and despair. Failure to recognize the inherent and inviolable dignity of the human person would be to ignore that human dignity is the cornerstone of Catholic social teaching. Time and again, I point out that the Gospel illustrates a challenge and question for Peter that is relevant in our own daily lives. In the Gospel of John, Jesus asks Peter whether Peter loves him. We too are asked daily the same question by the Lord, “Do you love me?” This question is about dedication, fidelity and commitment for each of us. If we truly love the Lord, we must take care of one another — we must love one another. Illustrated throughout the Gospel by his words and deeds is Christ’s command to “love one another” (Jn 13:43).
This command to love one another is encapsulated in “Koinonia,” a song written by V. Michael McKay, a Christian composer. The lyrics speak to the heart of the call to love everyone. “Koinonia” states: ‘How can I say that I love the Lord, who I’ve never ever seen before? And forget to say that I love the one who I walk beside each and every day? How can I look upon your face and ignore God’s love, you I must embrace? You’re my brother, you’re my sister, and I love you with the love of the Lord.’
We must be as Christ expects us to be for one another. Without love there can be no true justice, no true harmony, no true righteousness and no true integrity. For this reason, we must illustrate and express more clearly our care and concern for each of God’s people, regardless of religious affiliation, ethnicity or whether they are documented or undocumented.