The latest letter of Pope Francis, his encyclical, Fratelli Tutti “Brothers and Sisters All,” is one that should touch every heart, stimulate our minds, awaken our conscience, warm our emotions and motivate us to do good and make this a happier, just and better world.
Can we humans ever unite as one humanity to change the world and together reach out to the downtrodden and the poor? Can we work together to lift from suffering the wounded, the excluded, the marginalized and unwanted, rejected, poor people in our neighbourhood, community, town and city? That is the challenge posed by the letter of Pope Francis.
His letter is one of enlightenment, encouragement, hope and love. It is a mighty challenge for us to be true believers and followers of Jesus of Nazareth. It brings us back to the human and Christian values that established the dignity of humankind. It is a call for us to embrace and live out daily the values and principles that Jesus taught and lived and died for. This is the heart of Christian faith, a personal relationship with Jesus of Nazareth and a shared fraternity with each other as brothers and sisters in one family of humanity.
As members of this universal family, we will embrace unselfish concern, love and service for each other. Jesus gave himself no titles, others did that. They called him Rabbi, Teacher, Master, and Son of God. What Jesus called himself was “a member of humanity,” a “Son of Mankind,” as everyone of us are, members of the human family.
In this, Jesus was revolutionary and Pope Francis is repeating what Jesus taught: that we must love all others irrespective of whether they are one of our special group. All persons are to be our neighbours. He called us to put aside group loyalty, leave elite fraternities, cast away membership in sects, clubs and dynasties, upper and lower classes, tribal bonds, nationality, social status and prestige.
We are to abandon all the bias and prejudices that goes with such select, exclusive closed groups that exclude and fear outsiders. The select group tends to exclude others and confront, despise and disrespect those on the outside. We must leave our group and join all others in a single family based on equality, justice, truth and doing good for others.
If personal family ties would cause us to reject, exclude or oppress others and separate us from the values of Jesus, we must cut the family ties. A shocking challenge for anyone who would be his true disciple even to the point of where we must love even our enemy. “Do good to those who hate you,” he said. It seems impossible yet that is the ideal that Jesus taught, that we are all one humanity in one world, and he lived and died for all of us.
As members of God’s single family, we share a common humanity, dignity, rights, and respect. This is what Pope Francis is reminding us, that as human beings we must be caring and responsible for each other irrespective of skin colour, citizenship, religion, gender, status or situation in life. We must also be caring for the planet, the environment and protect all living creatures. The universality of the loving fraternity that Jesus taught is one that demands we love one another and we do to others as we would want them to do to us. This is the heart of what Jesus taught.
The world today, as Pope Francis said, with its many problems, injustice, racism, inequality, crime, and corruption, is a world under the darkness of evil. Yet the hope and love that Jesus of Nazareth shared with us can save humanity from self-destruction, hatred, violence and nuclear war and even save us from extinction.
It is by sharing life in a universal community and working together helping the poor and the oppressed that change will come. By standing and speaking out against violence, killings and evil, we will make Jesus and his spirit present again and change the world. We just need to persuade enough people to choose to do it.
In his encyclical, Pope Francis takes the story that Jesus told to illustrate the welcome and acceptance and the help we should have for the outsider, for the stranger, the migrant, the excluded. These are the people who are treated with rejection, apathy and indifference by the elite institutionalized clergy and the uncaring politicians.
As Pope Francis interprets it in today’s world, the suffering humanity has been beaten and robbed by the uncaring powerful robbers and left to die on the roadside. The victim was a stranger, an unknown. A member of the clergy and then a member of the ruling elite walk by on the other side of the road. They ignore the wounded, dying person. Then there comes a man, likely a trader, with a donkey. He is different, he is like an untouchable, an unclean, rejected person.
He doesn’t walk past; he is moved with compassion and concern. Immediately, he hurries to help the victim and cleans and treats the wounds, dresses them and takes the victim on his donkey to the nearest inn. There, a humble, kind innkeeper, likely a poor man, accepts to care for the victim and the trader pays him and promises to return and pay more as needed.
“Who among the three was a true neighbour to the dying man and saved him”? Jesus asked. “The one who helped him,” the man in the audience answered. “You are correct, go and do likewise,” Jesus said. (Luke 10:25-37) The message is clear. When asked to state the way to eternal life, the man in the audience answered: “Love the Lord your God with your whole heart, soul, life, strength and your mind and love your neighbour as you love yourself.” That story, as repeated by Pope Francis in his letter, explains that we are challenged to share and help, without discrimination, everyone, strangers, migrants, refugees, the poor, hungry, wounded, people of any skin colour and all suffering humanity.
(Fr. Shay Cullen)