Summary: We must spread the joy of the Gospel as we fight all kinds of enslavement.
Thursday of First Week in Course 2016
Joy of the Gospel
I can’t imagine what it is to be a slave, or, for that matter, like Lincoln, a slave-owner. But all of us have sinned, and many have been addicted to one sin or the other. That’s the worst kind of slavery. The nation of Israel enslaved itself to the worship of foreign gods. They probably considered the Lord, God of Israel, to be a kind of historical oddity, but in the first reading, when their own strength of arms failed them, they brought the Ark of the Presence as their big weapon in battle. After all, isn’t He called Lord God of Hosts–of armies?
But when you look at the text carefully, you see that it was the Philistines who believed more in the power of the Lord. The presence of the Ark actually invigorated these foes, who overwhelmed the Israelites in battle, seized the Ark, and killed the corrupt sons of the effete high priest Eli, who promptly dropped dead when he heard the news. Israel then became a kind of slave-nation to the Philistines. In our Gospel, the anonymous leper was enslaved to his affliction, but he knew the power of Jesus, and the power of obedience. God’s ways are best, and even though following Him will involve pain and suffering, our prayer must for our own happiness always be “Thy will be done.”
The Holy Father continues his discussion of the poor and suffering, and what we must do for them, and he mentions enslavement: ‘I have always been distressed at the lot of those who are victims of various kinds of human trafficking. How I wish that all of us would hear God’s cry: “Where is your brother?” (Gen 4:9). Where is your brother or sister who is enslaved? Where is the brother and sister whom you are killing each day in clandestine warehouses, in rings of prostitution, in children used for begging, in exploiting undocumented labour? Let us not look the other way. There is greater complicity than we think. The issue involves everyone! This infamous network of crime is now well established in our cities, and many people have blood on their hands as a result of their comfortable and silent complicity.
‘Doubly poor are those women who endure situations of exclusion, mistreatment and violence, since they are frequently less able to defend their rights. Even so, we constantly witness among them impressive examples of daily heroism in defending and protecting their vulnerable families.
‘Among the vulnerable for whom the Church wishes to care with particular love and concern are unborn children, the most defenceless and innocent among us. Nowadays efforts are made to deny them their human dignity and to do with them whatever one pleases, taking their lives and passing laws preventing anyone from standing in the way of this. Frequently, as a way of ridiculing the Church’s effort to defend their lives, attempts are made to present her position as ideological, obscurantist and conservative. Yet this defence of unborn life is closely linked to the defence of each and every other human right. It involves the conviction that a human being is always sacred and inviolable, in any situation and at every stage of development. Human beings are ends in themselves and never a means of resolving other problems. Once this conviction disappears, so do solid and lasting foundations for the defence of human rights, which would always be subject to the passing whims of the powers that be. Reason alone is sufficient to recognize the inviolable value of each single human life, but if we also look at the issue from the standpoint of faith, “every violation of the personal dignity of the human being cries out in vengeance to God and is an offence against the creator of the individual”.‘