REFLECTION….

Unity in Love

Unity is always a struggle in any type of community – family, friendship, parish, the Church, workplace, and even religious community. The first reading from the Acts of the Apostles is an example. The community didn’t know what to do with Saul who had been a vigorous persecutor to the followers of Jesus but now became a preacher of Christ.

The second reading and the Gospel also seem to focus on unity, but not unity on the outside but within. External unity has to come from unity within, our unity with God through the Word Incarnate: “I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me, with me in him, bears fruit in plenty”. And according to the first letter of John, whoever keeps God’s commandments unites with God and God with them. God’s commandments are to believe in Jesus, God’s Son, and to love one another.

For us, Christians, to believe may be easier than to love. Perhaps, we all come from family situation, and know how challenging it is, at times, to love our own families, especially when they are so different to us, when they drive us nuts, when they hurt us in more than “seventy times seven” occasions. Unity seems to be a nice theory or ideology but far from reality.

When my dad was still alive (he passed away nearly four years ago) and struggling through the MND disease in the last three years of his life, he and I didn’t get along well from the outside. We argued a lot about what he could eat and drink, what he could and could not do for the day, how to make some sense of faith in such the situation he was in. Regardless of all that, one of the last moments of his earthly life, laying on the bed, he looked at me with glassy eyes as if he wanted to say that he loved me so much, but could not say it anymore.

Unity in reality can only be found, not in agreement, conformity or blind obedience to authority, but in love. Love, as someone rightly said, is a decision which is made by our whole being – heart, mind, soul, faith, hope and all else. It is, for me, like a commitment, meaning a journey, and the aim of this journey is union with those we have loved, moreover, with all creation and the Creator, our loving God.

Br Khoi msc

LEPERS IN OUR MIDST

The first reading and the Gospel are usually connected in theme. This weekend is no exception. Both talk about leprosy and those who are contracted with it.

According to HarperCollins Bible Dictionary and some scripture scholars I have come across, it is unclear what leprosy really is but it is certainly not modern leprosy (Hansen’s disease). This information can help us reread the readings this weekend in broader terms. Leprosy can be interpreted as any kind of physical disorder that makes people excluded or left out in many ways, not only physically but also socially. The person, as mentioned in the first reading from the book of Leviticus, who is leprous must be declared “unclean”. Uncleanliness in this context is not only about hygiene but also and moreover about ritual and social state: being outcasts in the community and society.

The only barrier between healing and the leper in the Gospel story is Jesus’ willingness. The only barrier between inclusivity and those who are left out, looked down, discriminated against in community and society is our willingness to make a change. We may not be able to “cure” diseases or disorders people have like Jesus was able according to the Gospel story, but we are capable of “healing” the social judgements and discriminations against those who are different from the majority. The outcasts are also human beings; but they are different to us, so different that we can’t accept them in our midst. Unless we can see that at times in our life we have been also outcasts, unless we can see that within ourselves we have some parts of us as strangers, we will never be able to have a genuine compassion for those who are strangers in our midst.

Br Khoi Nguyen msc