Last Monday Pope Francis made his visit first outside the Vatican by going the southern Mediterranean island of Lampedusa, a major point of arrival for impoverished immigrants, mostly from Africa and the Middle East, seeking to reach Europe. Some 20,000 migrants have died at sea trying to make this journey to the island located off the Sicilian coast at the continent’s southern edge. The Pope thanked the people of the island for doing what they can for these landless people.
Pope Francis tossed a wreath of yellow and white chrysanthemums into the sea to commemorate those who died making the passage, imploring host societies to ensure that the arrival of immigrants does not occasion “new and even heavier forms of slavery and humiliation.” On these people. Later he celebrated the Mass of Reparation for the people of the island and the immigrants. These are some of the words he preached during his short homily.
Today no one in the world feels responsible for this; we have lost the sense of fraternal responsibility; we have fallen into the hypocritical attitude of the priest and of the servant of the altar that Jesus speaks about in the parable of the Good Samaritan: We look upon the brother half dead by the roadside, perhaps we think “poor guy,” and we continue on our way, it’s none of our business; and we feel fine with this. We feel at peace with this, we feel fine! The culture of well-being, that makes us think of ourselves, that makes us insensitive to the cries of others, that makes us live in soap bubbles, that are beautiful but are nothing but illusions of futility, of the transient, that brings indifference to others, that brings even the globalization of indifference. In this world of globalization we have fallen into a globalization of indifference. We are accustomed to the suffering of others, it doesn’t concern us, and it’s none of our business. So many of us, and I include myself, are disoriented. We are no longer attentive to the world in which we live. We don’t care about it; we don’t take care of what God created for all; we’re no longer capable of taking care of one another.
Today’s parable of the Good Samaritan is one of the most famous of the parables of Jesus. The lawyers whose question – who is my neighbour? prompted Jesus to tell this parable could even bring himself to say the word hated word ‘Samaritan’ – all he could say was ‘the one who showed him mercy’.
We are swamped with the miseries of our world. Men, women and children whose lives are devastated by wars of racial or religious hatred. Famine plagues so many lands. We know of the exploitation of migrant farmers, share croppers and women working in the sweat shops of the world. In honest helplessness we ask,’ what can I do to change these unjust realities?
You good people are so good and generous in responding to the many appeals that come our way and many of you are involved in other good works that have nothing to do with this parish.
I think this parable isn’t told to make us feel guilty, it is told to make us think, it is told to help us be more sensitive to the needs of others.
Who is my neighbour? The person who is in my face right here, right now. I used to ask the children at school, ’what do you have to do if you want to see Jesus?’ and they all answered – look at the person next to me – the man, the woman, the child who is in my face. He or she is my neighbour.
I can’t feed the hungry of the world but I can nourish people in my life who hunger and thirst for acceptance of themselves as they are, who hunger and thirst for respect as human beings, who hunger and thirst for understanding and support. I can’t heal the diseases of the world but I can heal the hurt and pain I may have caused others by asking for their forgiveness. I can’t end the injustices and the exploitation of peoples but I can do something about it by examining my own shopping habits. I can do something about it when I stop and ask myself ‘do I really need this of am I into comfort shopping? I can make a conscious effort to live simply that others may simply live.
I can’t do much about the way we humans are attacking the life systems of the planet and exploiting the limited resources of Earth but I can do something by checking my wastefulness and making myself more aware of the ecological issues of our time and making my own decision to live lightly on the earth.
Going back to the words of Pope Francis, “In this world of globalization we have fallen into a globalization of indifference.” We are accustomed to the suffering of others, it doesn’t concern us, and it’s none of our business. Maybe as we continue to celebrate this Mass in which we remember Christ’s love to each of us, giving up his life on the cross for each of us, we can pray for ourselves and for each other that we distance ourselves from this globalization of indifference and remember that whether they be near or far these suffering men, women and children are our brothers and sisters and if all we can do is prayer for them then may do at least that.