Al Islam Update (3)

Missing The Forest for the Trees – Anil Netto in the Catholic Herald.

I think Anil has got it spot on here:

Every now and then, we come across insensitive words or action towards a religious faith by people of other faiths or of none.

It could be a depiction which portrays the founder of that faith or its followers in poor light or that mocks the sacred rituals or observances of that faith.

More often than not, the knee-jerk reaction among the adherents of that faith would be one of outrage that their religion has been ridiculed. Some groups will then come to the forefront and take it upon themselves to be defenders of the faith by staging protests or handing in memorandums or reports. They are outraged that “their God” and their beliefs have been humiliated.

In a way, such a response is understandable. No one likes to see their cherished beliefs or their religious observances ridiculed.

Seen in another way, however, the urge to come forward as “defenders” of the faith is often selective or maybe even misplaced.

If we believe in an omnipotent, transcendent God, the creator of the Universe, then nothing anyone can do or say can take away from his greatness.

If anything, those who try to mock or humiliate such an omnipotent God are only displaying their own ignorance.

Remember what Jesus said when those at the foot of the cross tortured and humiliated him — the ultimate mockery of them all — “Father, forgive them for they know not what they are doing.”

That’s it. No righteous indignation, no rallying of the throngs of followers. Just a plea to the Father to overlook what the soldiers were doing for they were doing was being done out of ignorance.

By then, most of Jesus followers had fled in the face of oppression and persecution and they were not around to defend him.

Not that God needed them in Jesus’ hour of need — though humanly speaking, it would have been comforting for Jesus if those near and dear to him had been around him then. After all, he did call them to stay awake with him in the Garden of Gethsemane.

What we often don’t realise — much less feel outraged about — is that the body of Christ continues to be pierced and tormented even today in other ways.

Remember his words? Whatever you do to the least of my sisters and brothers, you do unto me.

And yet, where is the outrage when people are denied good medical treatment because they are unable to afford it? Where are the protests when foreign workers are exploited, ill-treated, locked-up in crammed conditions?

Why the deafening silence when prisoners are tortured or abused or detained without trial? Why are so few willing to stand up and be counted when indigenous communities, farmers and urban pioneers are driven away from their land and their homes one reason or another?

Have we not failed to live up to our role as stewards of Creation when we remain quiet as hills are cut, forests are chopped down, and rivers and seas polluted?

Why are we not concerned that many children are still going hungry?

Sadly, we often view our faith and roles as Christians in a very limited and narrow way. For the most part, we continue to remain ignorant about the basic principles of Catholic Social Teaching and our responsibility for the world and the common good.

We are far more comfortable discussing at great lengths the merits or otherwise of say, whether we should receive communion in our hands or what language the sermon is being preached in. These issues do not challenge us personally and do not share us out of our middle-class comfort zones.

In focussing on the trivial issues, however, we could miss the forest for the trees. In our zeal for form over substance, ritual and sacrifice over justice, we may just about fail to hear the cries of the suffering Jesus from those who most need our help and solidarity. And that would be a real tragedy.

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