23rd February 2020 Kanturk 7th Sunday (A)
COPING WITH DIVERSITY
Mahatma Gandhi was an Indian lawyer who campaigned peacefully for the rights of the Indian people. His pacifism continually confounded his critics indeed his enemies too. His refusal to use violence to achieve his aims made him an immensely powerful political figure. Equally, his refusal to hate or engender hatred made him a much admired and feared opponent.
As you might expect he was a great admirer of the teaching and life of Jesus but he was not so impressed by his followers – while they ‘talked the talk’, they often did not ‘walk the walk’. The witness of our lives leaves a lot to be desired. But that is the reality ….. it is difficult to be faithful to the Lord in life.
To-day the Church offers us some of the most challenging verses in the Gospel teaching of Jesus. The invitation to love the enemy and do good to those who hate you, this is a daily challenge for each individual. How do you cope with / manage to relate to those from whom you differ in view and opinion? Add to that those whose very person you find difficult to tolerate. In the light of the Gospel command to love your enemy, do good to those who hate you, how do we deal with difference at a minimum and with hatred and resentment.
We live in a P.C. world – a world where we are called to be “politically correct” in all we do and say especially if one is in public life. If you step out of line a “ton of bricks” will land on your head. This social dynamic is itself politically motivated whereby the objective of “inclusivity” is weaponised to silence those who differ from us or from whom we differ.
To suggest that we do not struggle with those who differ from us is to live in “cloud cuckoo land”. Enmity and resentment of difference is part of the human condition – that itself does not make it evil. What we do with our sense of alienation, difference and darkness is what makes it evil.
Because this dynamic of the human heart goes on in all of us, we cannot but bring it into our relationships and our families. This is where our failure to deal with our differences can be really disruptive even to the point of fracturing the family itself. That’s why great care is required to avoid what first starts as a small difference grows into a huge divide (mountain out of a molehill).
To hear the command of Jesus to love the enemy and do good to those who hate you requires the co-operation of mind and heart. Openness of heart is a great grace from God, the Creator Father. It is He who willed us into life and called us by name. All are precious in His sight. Our minds bless us with understanding of difference.
Difference often leads to disconnection. Reconciliation is required for re-connection. It is truly disturbing to witness those who exploit difference and turn it into enmity.
Media frequently seeks to provoke those with strong feelings to say things that offend and hurt. Political forces frequently fabricate information to insult, defame even destroy reputations. There are those within the Church who are not beyond this same malevolence.
The human heart is capable of great good and terrible evil.
Some of those same feelings reside in all of us.
To-day invites us to look again, carefully, at any darkness of spirit that lurks within us. And with the healing and merciful spirit of the Lord begin to melt that tumour of jealousy, hate, resentment to live again free of the darkness it can visit upon our lives.