Thursday of second week in Lent 2017
Joy of the Gospel
Many people think that Jesus made up the parables, that He was a kind of novelist. I belong to a school of thought that sees Jesus as one acutely aware of what is going on around him, and who understands as nobody else does what is behind human actions. Thus this rich man and his five brothers may well have been a family in the history of Israel, a family of rich, self-centered misers who cared for nobody but themselves. In fact, there is no mention of the five brothers in the story while the man is living. They are an afterthought that comes to old Dives as he suffers in hell. He reminds me of the people who preach universal brotherhood but ignore the starving family in the neighborhood. “I love all humans” needs to be applied locally.
The pope is turning to a related theme: ‘An innate tension also exists between globalization and localization. We need to pay attention to the global so as to avoid narrowness and banality. Yet we also need to look to the local, which keeps our feet on the ground. Together, the two prevent us from falling into one of two extremes. In the first, people get caught up in an abstract, globalized universe, falling into step behind everyone else, admiring the glitter of other people’s world, gaping and applauding at all the right times. At the other extreme, they turn into a museum of local folklore, a world apart, doomed to doing the same things over and over, and incapable of being challenged by novelty or appreciating the beauty which God bestows beyond their borders.
‘The whole is greater than the part, but it is also greater than the sum of its parts. There is no need, then, to be overly obsessed with limited and particular questions. We constantly have to broaden our horizons and see the greater good which will benefit us all. But this has to be done without evasion or uprooting. We need to sink our roots deeper into the fertile soil and history of our native place, which is a gift of God. We can work on a small scale, in our own neighborhood, but with a larger perspective. Nor do people who wholeheartedly enter into the life of a community need to lose their individualism or hide their identity; instead, they receive new impulses to personal growth. The global need not stifle, nor the particular prove barren.
‘Here our model is not the sphere, which is no greater than its parts, where every point is equidistant from the center, and there are no differences between them. Instead, it is the polyhedron, which reflects the convergence of all its parts, each of which preserves its distinctiveness. Pastoral and political activity alike seek to gather in this polyhedron the best of each. There is a place for the poor and their culture, their aspirations and their potential. Even people who can be considered dubious on account of their errors have something to offer which must not be overlooked. It is the convergence of peoples who, within the universal order, maintain their own individuality; it is the sum total of persons within a society which pursues the common good, which truly has a place for everyone.
‘To Christians, this principle also evokes the totality or integrity of the Gospel which the Church passes down to us and sends us forth to proclaim. Its fullness and richness embrace scholars and workers, businessmen and artists, . . .everyone. The genius of each people receives in its own way the entire Gospel and embodies it in expressions of prayer, fraternity, justice, struggle and celebration. The good news is the joy of the Father who desires that none of his little ones be lost, the joy of the Good Shepherd who finds the lost sheep and brings it back to the flock. The Gospel is the leaven which causes the dough to rise and the city on the hill whose light illumines all peoples. The Gospel has an intrinsic principle of totality: it will always remain good news until it has been proclaimed to all people, until it has healed and strengthened every aspect of humanity, until it has brought all men and women together at table in God’s kingdom.’
So as we meditate on the Gospel this Lent, we should constantly ask God to reveal to us those ways in which we may be overlooking the opportunities to be like Christ and Mary in our daily lives. “Show us, O Lord, those nearby people and situations that we should be aware of. Show us what we can do, what we can say that will make you present to those who need you. You love all as individuals. Help us, we pray, to imitate your example.”