November 1, 2020

In the first column, I offered for us to imagine Pope Francis’ encyclical as a giant mirror for our world, “to see” and “to examine” itself, in light of the “true image” that the mirror was reflecting. I pointed out that, as we find it in our own experience, the task of seeing the “true image” of ourselves (that is, how God created us to be- together as “us”), and by extension the world to see its “true image”, is a difficult task, due to our “false lens” (secular way of seeing ourselves and the world- divided between “us” and “them”), we often prefer to see what we like to see, rather than to accept, reality as is, and our “true image” reflected in the mirror.

Pope Francis, therefore, calls us to abandon our “false lens” (chapter 1), and to “see things in a new light”, as well as “enter into an alternative way of thinking” (chapter 2-4). What does he mean by this? And how do we do that? How do we “take off” our false lens, “see things in a new light”, and “enter into an alternative way of thinking”?

What Pope Francis is ultimately calling us to, in these ensuing chapters, is for us to adopt the “vision of the Gospel”, that is, to “put on the eyes of Christ”. How do we do this? By first, “hearing” the Word of God.

In chapter two, Pope Francis recounts for us a familiar Gospel story, “the parable of the Good Samaritan”. In recounting the story, Pope Francis invites each of us to a deeper reflection and an examination of ourselves and our world, in which he asks us, “Which of these persons do you identify with? This question, blunt as it is, is direct and incisive. Which of these characters do you resemble? We need to acknowledge that we are constantly tempted to ignore others, especially the weak. Let us admit that, for all the progress we have made, we are still 'illiterate' when it comes to accompanying, caring for and supporting the most frail and vulnerable members of our developed societies. We have become accustomed to looking the other way, passing by, ignoring situations until they affect us directly.” (Fratelli Tutti 64, Italics added).

I will be the first to admit that, on a daily basis, as I encounter “the injured man on the roadside” among my brothers here in seminary, just like the priest and the levite, I often walk past the injured man, and if I am willing to stop, I seem to be willing, only when it is convenient to me, only when it fits “my” schedule. Am I alone here? Or do you identify with my struggle?

Why does this happen to us?

Pope Francis explains, “They considered themselves important for the society of the time, and were anxious to play their proper part. The man on the roadside, bruised and abandoned, was a distraction, an interruption from all that; in any event, he was hardly important. He was a ‘nobody', undistinguished, irrelevant to their plans for the future. The Good Samaritan transcended these narrow classifications. He himself did not fit into any of those categories; he was simply a foreigner without a place in society. Free of every label and position, he was able to interrupt his journey, change his plans, and unexpectedly come to the aid of an injured person who needed his help.” (Fratelli Tutti 101, italics added).

The Good Samaritan stopped and assisted the injured man, because he was “free” of the “false lens” that clouded the priest, the levite, you and me. To put on the “vision of the Gospel”, that is, to put on “the eyes of Christ” then, is to allow our brothers and sisters to “interrupt” and to “distract” us from being closed into ourselves. To wake us up and to keep us from falling into our own selfish and enclosed reality. We cannot do this alone, which is why, Pope Francis is reminding us, that we need each other, ultimately, “no one is saved alone; we can only be saved together” (Fratelli Tutti 32).

Have a good week!
Deacon Val Park