Stepping Beyond – Ourselves to those who suffer
Call to mind any concerns you have been carrying recently . . . as you breathe out, share them with God . . . you might even be able to hand some of these over, at least for now . . . as you breathe out, hand them over to God . . . each time you breathe in, breathe in God’s love for you . . . let it fill your body . . . take three deeper breaths keeping this up . . .
Prepare yourself now to hear our reading from the Prophet Isaiah...
Isaiah 40:3-5 NRSV
A voice cries out: "In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain.
Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken."
John the Baptist whom we meet during these weeks of Advent was a prophetic figure. A prophet is someone who speaks the truth and challenges us to shake out of our usual ways of seeing and doing things. John’s message was uncomfortable for many at the time and perhaps is still uncomfortable for us today. It calls us to step beyond ourselves to a place of community where there is justice and care for all our brothers and sisters who suffer and when we do this “then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all people shall see it together.”
In keeping with this theme of caring for those who suffer, Pope Francis in Fratelli Tutti (Chapter 2) uses the powerful parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). This parable deals with a problem we already meet in the first pages of the Bible. God asks Cain: “Where is your brother Abel?” Cain’s answer is one that we ourselves give all too often: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Gen:4-9). Often we look for answers that justify our inaction and indifference towards the immense suffering that surrounds us. One way of doing that is to form closed groups where we only care for those who are like us, excluding all the others. However, listening to the message from John the Baptist we are called to make “the uneven ground (shall become) level, and the rough places a plain”.
In the parable of the Good Samaritan ‘only one person stopped, approached the man, and cared for him personally, even spending his own money to provide for his needs. He also gave him something that in our frenetic world we cling to tightly: he gave him his time. Certainly, he had his own plans for that day, his own needs, commitments, and desires. Yet he was able to put all that aside when confronted with someone in need. Without even knowing the injured man, he saw him as deserving of his time and attention.’ (FT 63).
The Pope applies this parable not only to relationships between individuals, but also to the way we organise our societies: do our societies include or exclude? If we live like neighbours, our societies will know how to identify with the vulnerabilities in their midst, lifting up and rehabilitating the fallen for the sake of the common good. At the same time, [the parable] warns us about the attitude of those who think only of themselves and fail to shoulder the inevitable responsibilities of life as it is.’ (FT67).
Pope Francis insists that, ‘the decision to include or exclude those lying wounded along the roadside can serve as a criterion for judging every economic, political, social and religious project. Each day we have to decide whether to be Good Samaritans or indifferent bystanders.’ (FT69).
During Advent we prepare ourselves for the coming of the true Good Samaritan, Jesus Christ, who takes pity on our situation and comes to pick us up and heal us. He then tells us, ‘go and do likewise’. (Lk 10:37).
Talk to God
As you begin to talk to God now, turn your attention to Christ’s life for a moment… a baby born in a simple manger; born into a suffering world…a life lived in service of the suffering, before suffering for us on a cross. Spend some time sitting now with Jesus, who has experienced the very depths of suffering…
Who is suffering and on your heart today? Talk to God about them now…
In these closing moments, you might like to ask God for a clear sense of how you can help those suffering around you…noticing where you feel stirred to act…
An Ecumenical Christian Prayer
O God, Trinity of love,
from the profound communion of your divine life,
pour out upon us a torrent of fraternal love.
Grant us the love reflected in the actions of Jesus,
in his family of Nazareth,
and in the early Christian community.
Grant that we Christians may live the Gospel,
discovering Christ in each human being,
recognizing him crucified
in the sufferings of the abandoned
and forgotten of our world,
and risen in each brother or sister
who makes a new start.
Come, Holy Spirit, show us your beauty,
reflected in all the peoples of the earth,
so that we may discover anew
that all are important and all are necessary,
different faces of the one humanity
that God so loves. Amen.
Given in Assisi, at the tomb of Saint Francis, on 3 October, Vigil of the Feast of the Saint, in the year 2020.
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