Sharing Jesus with others

On Monday of this week the Gospel reading was from Luke and told of the man who was beaten by robbers. We hear that a priest and Levite came across the man and crossed to the other side of the road to avoid him. It was the Samaritan who cared for the man. This reading triggered a couple of thoughts. 

I was with several UMass Dartmouth students at the Newman House when the news broke of the shootings at Umpqua Community College in Oregon. The following morning Deacon Frank Lucca and I released a statement through the UMass Dartmouth Catholic Campus Ministry Facebook Page. Allow me to share that statement with you:

“We are saddened by the tragic event that occurred yesterday at Umpqua Community College. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families and the whole college community. May those killed rest in God’s eternal embrace and the families, friends and community of UCC draw strength and healing from the Lord.

“This tragedy occurred on October 1, a month that the U.S. bishops designate as Respect Life Month. Our prayers include praying for a country and world where the dignity of each human being is respected, not only in our colleges and communities, but also in our homes and in relationships among nations and peoples of differing races, creed, philosophy, etc.”

Pope Francis’ visit to the United States had the theme “Love is our Mission.” In all of his speeches, talks and homilies he called all people of good will to greater respect for humanity. This call includes not only the care for the poor and less fortunate, but also those who struggle with isolation or mental illness. We will probably never know fully the reasons why the shootings occurred. However, it seems that the individual struggled with many issues and felt isolated from others. The first reading this weekend from the book of Genesis is about the creation of woman. One of the teachings of this story is our need to be in relationship with others. As Aristotle said, human beings are by nature social beings. We need others to thrive and flourish in life. Total isolation leads to destruction: intellectually, emotionally, Spiritually, and, as we saw in Oregon, sometimes physically.

“Let us hear the words of the Scriptures and of Pope Francis and work for a world that cares for all its citizens. Let us work for greater healing and understanding. Let us work for a world where peace and justice are the norm.” 

On Sunday, I read Pope Francis’ homily at the Mass that started the Synod on Family. In his homily he stated:

“Today we experience the paradox of a globalized world filled with luxurious mansions and skyscrapers, but a lessening of the warmth of homes and families; many ambitious plans and projects, but little time to enjoy them; many sophisticated means of entertainment, but a deep and growing interior emptiness; many pleasures, but few loves; many liberties, but little freedom. The number of people who feel lonely keeps growing, as does the number of those who are caught up in selfishness, gloominess, destructive violence and slavery to pleasure and money.”

It seems that in all of our progress in the world, our successes and achievements we are becoming disconnected from one another. Such a disconnect goes against the very nature of human beings. We need love to thrive and to survive. There are reports that the night before the shootings at UCC, the gunman was on social media expressing how isolated and lonely he was. Now this is an extreme case and there are reasons behind the shootings that are not as simple as many are making it out to be. Yet, it does show how destructive isolation — regardless of its causes — can be to anyone of any age.   

The second experience occurred on Sunday. A priest from the missions celebrated Mass at the parish which gave me the opportunity to meet with the Confirmation candidates. During my time with them some of them asked various questions about our Catholic faith and teachings. One of the questions asked was why does God hate gay people? I assured the young man and his peers that this is not the case. The heart of Christianity is love: love of God and love of neighbor. 

How do these two situations relate? Our Christian faith is about a relationship with Jesus Christ and with one another. We are called to share that relationship with all those made in the image and likeness of God. That means engaging those who are seeking God or who don’t believe in God. The person who is lonely and feeling isolated and the young person with a sincere question about faith or God are opportunities to share God’s love with, not a reason to cross to the other side of the street.

Anchor columnist Father Frederici is pastor of St. John the Evangelist Parish in Pocasset and diocesan director of Campus Ministry and Chaplain at UMass Dartmouth and Bristol Community College.

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