RELIGION: We are called to live with humility and justice


I was recently reading a review of a popular and multi award-winning drama series on television. The series ends with the exchange between two characters, with a private investigator saying, you can’t commit crimes with impunity, that’s not the way the world works, to which another character, just before the private investigator is shot, replies, ‘Isn’t it?’ It is reminiscent of that world view that says, ‘No good deed goes unpunished.’ It’s the opposite of the traditional films where good always triumphs and evil is vanquished. It’s also representative of a more modern mentality that sees such selfishness as triumphant in life. It’s a mentality that says self-interest and power is the only thing that will get you results in life.

It struck a chord in me because of today’s readings; Seek justice, seek humility; the first reading couples these two things together, and the Gospel then speaks of these two things at the beginning at end of the beatitudes, Happy are the poor in Spirit, that is the lowly and humble, and at the end it says happy are those who are persecuted in the cause of right. The two words in both readings are the same even though the translation makes it difficult to see; it is a direct challenge to the mentality that promotes selfishness and power as the only way to live one’s life. And if to sum it all up the Gospel then links humility and righteousness to the disciples of Christ, it is because it wants to say that ‘this is what it means to be a disciple of Christ’. Your choice must be for humility and righteousness. It almost seems to suggest that a choice for success and power in this world is a choice for selfishness and violence. But perhaps it would be better to say that this world tempts those who are successful and have power with selfishness and even violence. We don’t have to look too far to see how true that can be.

But the Gospel goes further because it also links living with humility and justice to persecution. It’s implying the way of the world is self-interest and power and if you try to live your life any other way you will suffer for it. You will be opposed, you will be persecuted, you will be abused and taken advantage of; you will be ridiculed and scoffed at.

The whole of the Gospel today seems to be about people who are not at home in this world, people who have suffered because the world is at war with them for no other reason than that they try to live with integrity and honesty and are not willing to compromise with what is right. Does the Gospel then advocate some sort of withdrawal from the world? Does it promote a view that the world is evil and we should have nothing to do with it?

 Is Christ’s promise of happiness only for heaven, the realisation of the peace and justice of the Kingdom of God a promise that is only for heaven? No, because Christ came to bring the Kingdom of God amongst us. Perhaps its full realisation will only be in heaven after the Day of Resurrection, but we are called to make it present even now and the promise is that we can make our world better. It is a Gospel filled with promise and hope for us and our world. But we must also be alert to the world that its ways are subtle and seductive so we must keep constantly before us that we are called to live with humility and justice. That is how we will change our world.

Canon Conroy is parish priest of St Patrick’s, Dumbarton, and St Peter’s, Bellsmyre

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