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12th Sunday in Ordinary Time | How to Respond to Acts of Hatred

Jesus_washing_Peter's_feet-Ford Madox Brown

Jesus Washing Peter’s Feet, Ford Madox Brown (1852-56), oil on canvas, Tate Gallery, London.

In the week that added the Orlando Massacre to our violent world, we are confronted as Christians with questions on how to talk about and respond to this kind of act.  The whole conversation is made worse by the identity politics that is rampant in our time.  Our tribal nature as humans makes us want to belong to a particular tribe: LGBTQ, Muslim, Liberal, Labor, Anti-vaccine, All Natural, Pro-Choice, Pro-life, Catholic, Protestant – choose your hashtag.  Identity politics helps us to feel loved, accepted and understood within our chosen group.  It is comforting to us to know that we are not alone in the world, that there are others who see things our way.  I felt this myself when I changed from watching the news on ABC (which, though being our public broadcaster, inclines to a singularly left-wing version of reality) to watching the Bolt Report on Sky Channel.  I thought, “At last, the voice of reason and sanity!”

But an unfortunate side-effect of identity politics is that it sets up any opposing groups as ‘the enemy’.   Identifying with one group often leads to stereotyping of other groups, rather than peaceful encounter.  Pope Francis has the measure of this, when he asks us to go out and encounter others.  Encounter helps us to humanise people; separation helps us to demonise people.  He sets the example by going out of his way to arrange meetings not only with other Catholics but with people like Mahmoud Abbas, gay couple Yayo Grassi and Iwan Bagus, Patriarch Kirill, prisoners, George Clooney, Rabbi Boruch Perton and so on, people with whom he has only a very limited shared set of beliefs, BUT who all share in our common humanity.

Some people get upset that Pope Francis has met with x, y or z, and think this means that he is showing support for the beliefs of Muslims, Hindus, LGBTQs, etc.  On the contrary, this is where the Catholic understanding of separating the person from their acts is so useful.  It allows us to love the person, while feeling perfectly free to analyse and possibly critique their beliefs, and we shouldn’t be ashamed to do so.  I would say that these things are necessary in any encounter with someone who identifies with a different group from us:

  1. We, as Catholics, must thoroughly understand and be confident about our own Church’s position on any particular point.
  2. We must not be afraid to talk to someone from another identity group, and ask them how they understand their beliefs (listening is always helpful).
  3. We need to be able to explain our beliefs on the same topic, without getting angry or self-righteous!
  4. We should then work out what common beliefs we have so that we can identify our common humanity and foster love, not hatred.
  5. We should pray for our friend with sincerity of heart and leave the Holy Spirit to do the rest.
  6. Note that if you are friends with another person who disagrees with you, it will be harder for them to indulge in hatred themselves.  An important point to understand is that disagreement is not synonymous with hate.
  7. If your friends choose to take a path of hatred towards you for disagreeing with them, then we need to be ready to embrace the cross of rejection or persecution. Jesus did, and he prayed, “Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do.”  This is what it will come down to in the end, whether we can embrace the cross.

But maybe, just maybe, they will be converted by our teaching and our behaviour, as, for example, these Muslims converting to Christianity, or even James Parker, the gay Catholic apologist:

Along the journey of acrimonious engagement with different expressions of Christianity I came across some startling, dare I say life-changing, revelations. In short, I came to understand that some of the people and organisations that I had consistently learned to blame and finger-wag for my despair were in fact conduits of my discovering an equal standing with others. This in turn led to a deeper sense of self-acceptance and my despair metamorphosing into a rich hope … It is the last thing I ever imagined doing when I first came out as a gay man in my late teens, especially as I saw the Catholic Church’s teaching as being the most archaic of all. The group’s policy is to refuse to diminish anyone by using labels … while honestly facing the reality of thoughts, feelings and actions. We seek to meet each other on our unique life journeys with authenticity and to bring them to the cross. (James Parker’s Story).

Today’s readings speak loudly about the necessity of embracing the cross in our walk with Christ:

Word format: Year C 12th Sunday 2016

Pdf format:Year C 12th Sunday 2016



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12th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B | It’s all about trust

The Storm on the Sea of Galilee, Rembrandt, 1633, Oil on canvas, location unknown, stolen from the Isabella Stuart Gardner Museum, Boston.

The Storm on the Sea of Galilee, Rembrandt, 1633, Oil on canvas, location unknown, stolen from the Isabella Stuart Gardner Museum, Boston.

Do you trust God?  If you want to know what trust in God is, look at the reactions of the relatives of the victims of the Charleston Church Shooting when they are confronted with the murderer of their loved ones in court.

“I just want everyone to know I forgive you,” said Nadine Collier, the daughter of 70-year-old victim Ethel Lance. “You hurt me, you hurt a lot of people, but I forgive you.”

“I forgive you, my family forgives you,” said Anthony Thompson. “We would like you to take this opportunity to repent. … Do that and you’ll be better off than you are right now.” (The Australian)

Trust is putting our faith in God even in the most excruciatingly painful circumstances, and knowing that his plan is much greater than our minds can understand.

In today’s first reading, Job has lost everything – children, property and health – and has been pouring out his heart to God for 37 chapters.  God replies by showing Job his omnipotence:

Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundations?  Tell me, since you are so well-informed! (Job 38:4)

Job only comes to the end of his sufferings when he realises his own ignorance before God:

I know that you are all-powerful: what you conceive, you can perform.  I was the man who misrepresented your intentions with my ignorant words.  You have told me about great works that I cannot understand, about marvels which are beyond me, of which I know nothing.  Before, I knew you only by hearsay but now, having seen you with my own eyes, I retract what I have said, and repent in dust and ashes.  (Job 42:2-3, 5-6)

God rewards Job for his faithfulness and humility:

And the Lord restored Job’s condition, while Job was interceding for his friends.  More than that, the Lord gave him double what he had before.

Job still doesn’t understand why he had to go through such suffering, but in this book full of dramatic irony, the reader knows, because back in Chapters One and Two, we saw how Satan wanted to test the faith of Job.

‘Yes,’ Satan said, ‘but Job is not God-fearing for nothing, is he?  … You have blessed all he undertakes, and his flocks throng the countryside.  But stretch out your hand and lay a finger on his possessions: then, I warrant you, he will curse you to your face.’  ‘Very well,’ Yahweh said to Satan, ‘all he has is in your power.’ (Job 1:9, 11-12)

It was actually Satan who caused all of Job’s misery, not God.  God only permits Satan to ‘sift us like wheat’ when He has a larger purpose in mind: an expansion of faith and trust, as in Job’s situation and in today’s Gospel where the Apostles are astounded at Jesus’ Divine Power.

Jesus tells his apostles in today’s Gospel, after he has calmed the storm,

‘Why are you so frightened? How is it that you have no faith?’

Jesus wants a lived faith, a life of radical trust and immersion in Him, not a superficial faith that runs fleeing in the other direction as soon as it encounters a challenge.

Other resources:

Read Dr Michael Barber’s Scripture Study on today’s readings.

Fr Barron in his homily for today relates the readings to today’s crisis within the Church.

Download today’s readings:

Word format: Year B 12th Sunday 2015

Pdf format: Year B 12th Sunday 2015