Rec­og­niz­ing good­ness

In­ter­faith ini­tia­tives pro­duce un­der­stand­ing, tol­er­ance

Cape Breton Post - - IN MEMORIAM/RELIGION - Robert Cole­man Diocesan Voices

Among my favourite texts from the New Tes­ta­ment is that of the para­ble of the Good Sa­mar­i­tan. It is among the most fa­mous and beloved of Je­sus’ para­bles.

The gen­er­ally ac­cepted view is that it is about be­ing char­i­ta­ble to those in need. But is there more to it than that?

At a cer­tain point in the story a lawyer asks Je­sus, “And who is my neigh­bour?” Je­sus does not an­swer the ques­tion with a com­mand or law. He uses the op­por­tu­nity to probe the char­ac­ter and chal­lenge the mind­set of the ques­tioner. Je­sus does so by clev­erly pre­sent­ing to the lawyer an alternate con­sid­er­a­tion, one out­side the com­fort­able and fa­mil­iar har­bour of le­gal­ism, namely who is it that the lawyer is pre­pared to be a neigh­bour to­ward?

In this para­ble Je­sus provoca­tively presents a Sa­mar­i­tan as the model of one who is will­ing to be a neigh­bour. The lawyer would have viewed that as be­ing un­think­able. Sa­mar­i­tans, you see, were re­garded as not pos­sess­ing that qual­ity of char­ac­ter.

There is more to this para­ble. Much more.

The Sa­mar­i­tan is ac­tu­ally pre­sented by Je­sus to the lawyer as not just do­ing good but be­ing good. The para­ble now be­comes very dis­con­cert­ing for the lawyer. The Sa­mar­i­tan’s good deed was not just an aber­ra­tion, as if some­thing done out of char­ac­ter. Rather, it was his in­nate good­ness that en­abled the act.

This recog­ni­tion of good­ness in one con­sid­ered not to pos­sess it was pre­cisely the chal­lenge Je­sus pre­sented to the lawyer who had been con­di­tioned by his faith, cul­ture and so­ci­etal norms to be­lieve as be­ing unattain­able for a Sa­mar­i­tan.

Fast-for­ward 2,000 years. Who are each of us pre­pared to be a neigh­bour to­ward? Who are we will­ing to en­gage through per­sonal in­volve­ment? The Mus­lim fam­ily liv­ing next door? The gay cou­ple who just moved in down the street? The in­mate re­leased from prison and now liv­ing in a half­way house nearby? The home­less per­son wan­der­ing down the av­enue? The athe­ist call­ing re­li­gion ar­chaic and its fol­low­ers delu­sional?

If you are of my gen­er­a­tion or older you prob­a­bly re­mem­ber the wari­ness that once ex­isted be­tween Catholics and Protes­tants. At times re­la­tions were quite un­neigh­bourly. And when it came to non-Chris­tians, well few of us even had Jewish, Mus­lim, Bud­dhist or Hindu neigh­bours and friends. As for athe­ists and ag­nos­tics, well they were a con­fronta­tional bunch best avoided al­to­gether.

To­day the ec­u­meni­cal and in­ter­faith ini­tia­tives among and within faith tra­di­tions is pro­duc­ing greater un­der­stand­ing and tol­er­ance. In­ter­faith gath­er­ings are be­com­ing more com­mon. Ec­u­meni­cal di­a­logue has en­abled var­i­ous Chris­tian tra­di­tions to reach agree­ment on a range of is­sues that once di­vided.

We now seek com­mon ground and col­lab­o­ra­tion. The Catholic Church glob­ally, as here in the Dio­cese of Antigo­nish, ini­ti­ates, sup­ports and par­tic­i­pates in ec­u­meni­cal and in­ter­faith di­a­logue. We choose to­day to tear down walls, build bridges and open doors.

One fi­nal point: No­tice that the story is called the ‘Para­ble of the Good Sa­mar­i­tan’ and not the ‘Para­ble of the Sa­mar­i­tan Who Did a Good Deed.’ Are we will­ing to ac­cept that about oth­ers, that they are in­her­ently good? And are we pre­pared to ac­knowl­edge, there­fore, that the King­dom of God is open to them?

Robert. F. Cole­man is a per­ma­nent dea­con with the Ro­man Catholic Dio­cese of Antigo­nish. Or­dained in 2011 he is cur­rently as­signed to St. Mar­guerite Bour­geoys Parish, serves as chap­lain at the Cape Bre­ton Cor­rec­tional Cen­tre and is a com­mu­nity rep­re­sen­ta­tive with Is­land Com­mu­nity Jus­tice So­ci­ety. Cole­man lives in Syd­ney with his wife and daugh­ter and works full time as a ca­reer de­vel­op­ment prac­ti­tioner.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.