757 “How is my neighbor doing?” That is a question we can all ask today, this Tuesday in Holy Week
Day 757: April 12, 2022 Tuesday in Holy Week
“How is my neighbor doing?” That is a question we can all ask today, this Tuesday in Holy Week, and every day.
Sometime during this week Jesus of Nazareth went up to the Temple in Jerusalem and proceeded to teach. This was a pretty bold thing to do because Jesus didn't have any credentials or degrees or authorization to be lecturing the religious teachers in the Temple. They saw him as just some country bumpkin who wandered in from Galilee. It didn't go too well, but one very important thing has come down to us (Mark 12:30). One of the Temple authorities asked Jesus what were the greatest commandments. Jesus responded, first, to love God, and secondly,
You must love your neighbor as yourself.
My personal experience is that the COVID-19 pandemic has helped us remember that we are neighbors. I think the people who live around us at Starcross hold a variety of political and spiritual views, many of them which are quite different than mine. But in this grave time the only thing that matters is that we are neighbors. Because people know that we are self-quarantined here at Starcross, they help us out in a number of ways. If we have different views about cutting down trees, that argument is put aside.
What Jesus said was not a new concept. The Hebrew Bible has this powerful instruction, “Redress the wronged, hear the orphan’s plea and defend the widow!” (Isaiah 1:17)
The biblical scholar Carroll Stuhlmueller (1923-1994) wrote that those words from Isaiah “symbolize in the Bible all the helpless and indigent people of the world.” So what do we do?
It begins by not averting our eyes or attention from an unpleasant situation right in front of us, like people who are homeless or hungry.
There are a lot of terrible things happening on our planet. Each of us has different situations that hold our attention when we hear about them or see something in the paper or on TV. What hits you hard? I know for me personally it usually has to do with a young child looking up at an adult who might guide her or him out of a horrible situation.
On my desk is a picture I clipped out of something. It shows a woman with three children walking along the railroad tracks at Auschwitz. The children are following her with confidence, as they always have. She knows this is the last time.
I recently saw something just as powerful filmed in Syria as the COVID-19 pandemic moves into a Syrian refugee camp run by UNICEF. There is no possibility of maintaining a safe distance between the children and there are no adequate health facilities available. All a child can do is take a parent’s hand and have a moment of feeling safe.
These Muslim parents trudging onwards are exactly like the Jewish mother in the 70-year-old picture on my desk. And now there are pictures of Ukrainian refugees. Will it never stop?
Whether the concern is halfway around the globe, or here at home, we can still pay attention. Our Sister Julie has a remarkable talent for discovering neighbors who need a little boost of help. And so far, our Food Pantry is keeping up with the greatly increased demand. Part of what we all should do every day, and particularly today, is to be concerned about what the people on our street or road are doing.
As he was experiencing the challenges of a final illness, the poet Basho (1644-1694) wrote, as translated by our friend Cliff Edwards,
my neighbor –
how is he doing?
I hear Basho saying that he no longer has to worry about tomorrow – at such a moment, he can genuinely escape from self-interest and ask, “How is my neighbor doing?”
That is a question we can all ask today, this Tuesday in Holy Week, and every day.
with love from Brother Toby