By Fr. Joseph Rinaldo, SdC
A couple of years ago, I was flying from Detroit to Tokyo. I had an aisle sit. Next to me sat a gentleman who appeared to enjoy the sight from the little window. We had a 12 hour trip ahead of us. I tried several times to make conversation and he replied with grunts. When I made a comment, he either ignored me or gave me another groan. I decided to forget him. I said to myself: he will have to go to the rest room and ask me to move. He never did. Perhaps God endowed him with long term organs. We need to stop looking at our cellular phones, and instead really encounter and listen to one another. Beware of bad habits that prevent us, even within our families, from truly listening to others and empathizing with them. We can draw inspiration from the Gospel reading where Jesus brought back from the dead the only son of the widow of Nain. “When the Lord saw her He felt sorry for her. “Do not cry,” He said. Then He went up and put His hand on the bier and He said,” Young man, I tell you to get up.” And the dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him to his mother. Everyone was filled with awe and praised God.” (Lk. 7,13-15). An encounter with Jesus overcomes our indifference.
Often when people meet each other, they think of themselves, they can see the other person but are not looking at him or her; they can hear that person but are not listening to him or her.
An encounter is something different. It is an encounter between a man and a woman, between an only living son and an only son who had died; among a joyful crowd because they had encountered Jesus and were following Him and a group of people, weeping, accompanying that woman, who had come out from the gate of the city; an encounter between the exit gate and the entry gate. An encounter that makes us reflect on our way of interacting with each other. Jesus “was moved with pity.” When Christ observed something unfortunate, He encounters and reacts, never remaining indifferent. If we see something sad, we say ‘what a shame!’ Jesus doesn’t pass by, He is moved with pity. He goes up to the woman for a real encounter and then performs the miracle and, at the same time He restores the dignity of the mother and son.
In this Gospel’s encounter, we not only see His tenderness but also the fruitfulness of that encounter that restores people and things to their proper place.
We are accustomed to a culture of indifference and we must strive and ask for the grace to create a culture of encounter, of a fruitful encounter, of an encounter that restores to each person his or her own dignity as a child of God, the dignity of a living person.
We are accustomed to this indifference, when we see the disasters of this world or small things: ‘What a shame, poor people, look how they are suffering,’ and then we carry on. And if I don’t look, it’s not enough to see, no, we must look. If I don’t stop, if I don’t look, if I don’t touch, if I don’t speak, I cannot have an encounter and I cannot help to build a culture of encounter.
We all are in need of his Word and need that encounter with Him.
In our families, at the dinner table, how many times while eating, we watch the TV or write messages on our cell phones. Each one is indifferent to that encounter. Even within the heart of society, which is the family, there is no encounter. May this help us to strive for this culture of encounter, just as simply as Jesus did so. As Christians we need to look, listen and meet, rather than just see, hear, and pass by. Don’t just say ‘what a shame, poor people,’ but allow ourselves to be moved by pity. Draw near, touch and say in the language that comes to each one of us in that moment, the language of the heart: Do not weep, and donate at the very least a drop of life.
Whether we are Cooperators, Brother Knights or Religious, Jesus loves us and wants a creative relationship with us. And from his fullness we all received grace upon grace.