Note: This blog post was written yesterday (Sunday 10/7) but due to technical issues I didn’t get it uploaded until today.
They say never talk sex, politics, or religion in polite company. Well, this post is going to tick two of those three boxes; so clearly we know the kind of company that’s being kept on this blog.
Today the pilgrims of the Brisbane Archdiocese were invited to a commissioning Mass at the Cathedral.
Commissioning is an important part of pilgrimage; it reinforces the idea that we aren’t alone, and that we aren’t just wandering aimlessly. Instead, we have been sent forth by a community. It also reminds us that we have obligations; we are pilgrims, not tourists. We should go out and bring something back. We should return changed. That can be a lot of pressure, but my experience of pilgrimages in the past has been that forcing the change doesn’t help. Instead, just allowing myself to be open to things can cause change. Or, at least, can provide me fuel for uncomfortable discernment that is to happen later.
The event itself was nice enough; I met some more of my fellow pilgrims, learned a bit about them, learned their names (which I will undoubtedly forget before Thursday but that’s fine it’s nothing personal Janice). But that’s not really what I wanted to blog about.
What really stuck out for me today was the Gospel reading, and I’ve had some thoughts percolating in the back of my head ever I listened to it earlier today.
The reading for today was the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). If you’re Christian, you’ve undoubtedly heard this story before. If you’re not Christian, you’ve probably at least heard the phrase “Good Samaritan” before, in reference to someone who helps a stranger in a bad situation. If you haven’t read it, or read it in a while, click the link above and take a moment. It’s a great story.
We all back? Cool.
What is usually focused on when people talk about this story is the selfless act of the eponymous Good Samaritan. However, what a lot of people, in my experience anyway, miss is that the parable is told in response to a question: “And who is my neighbour?” (Which is in turn prompted by Jesus’ statement: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbour as yourself.”)
It’s worth noting that in Biblical times, Samaritans and Jews (Jesus’ target audience) did not get along. In, like, a very serious way. So it’s clearly significant that Jesus picked this person who was a cultural outsider to demonstrate the concept of neighbourliness.
In Australia last week, we elected a Parliament that features some colourful characters. Unless you have been living under a rock, you will be aware that well-known xenophobe Pauline Hanson is among them. Hanson is well-known for her inflammatory rhetoric, which stokes the fires of fear around race and religion. Hanson is very good at ‘othering’ people; reducing them to their difference and insinuating that this difference is inherently bad. She is, of course, not alone.
MP Cory Bernardi is very good at demonising the ‘others’ in our communities in order to rally conservatives behind his social causes. Our very own currently-Catholic, former-PM Tony Abbott was very good at using fear of asylum seekers to further his own political agenda. Successive immigration ministers, Scott Morrison and Peter Dutton, have also been known to sow the seeds of fear and disunity through splitting humanity into “us” and “them”. On asylum seekers Labor hasn’t been much better.
I wonder if, perhaps, the next parliament of Australia could learn a few lessons from this story? Who is my neighbour? Is it only the person who it’s convenient for me to love? Or is it someone who might, shock-horror, ask me to move beyond my comfort zone and deal with the reality outside my own microcosm.