MASS CELEBRATED BY ARCHBISHOP DENIS HART AT SAINT PATRICK’S CATHEDRAL, MELBOURNE, ON SUNDAY, 14TH JULY 2013 AT 11.00 A.M.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today Jesus asks us, ‘Who is my neighbour?’ and the answer leaps out of the pages of the Gospel, ‘The one who took pity on him’; the gift of compassion or as Pope John Paul said, ‘seeing others as part of myself’.
As we turn to the Lord in our need we can be the instruments of his care.
Let us call to mind our sins and ask the Lord to strengthen us.
“And who is my neighbour?”
The Oxford Dictionary would use an old English word ‘neighbour’ for near dwelling. Five hundred years before Christ, the poet, Pindar, wrote, “Of the good things given, I say that a neighbour true and loving in heart is a joy beyond all things else.” Later on Chesterton would see a neighbour not in terms of a person, ‘but a barking dog, the noise of a stereo, a dispute about a fence, drains that are worse than yours and roses that are better.’
Today’s Gospel shows us the practical gift of being a neighbour to someone as the active use of the gift of compassion. Seeing a person as an opportunity for us to reach out to, being not so locked up in ourselves that we are forgetful of the cries, often of the unspoken words, of our neighbour. Martin Luther King even went further. He said that a neighbour is someone who looks beyond the external and sees those inner qualities, which make all people human.
The theologian, Dietrich Bonhoffer, who died in prison, had these timely words to say. “Neighbourliness is not a quality that we must discover in other people before we accept them as neighbours; it is rather their claim on ourselves. We have literally no time to sit down and ask ourselves whether so and so is our neighbour or not. We must get into action and obey. We must behave like a neighbour to him.”
Jesus’ own words, “Love your neighbour as yourself” or “Love one another as I have loved you” challenge us to answer in practical terms what we can find if we take off our blinkers and see the good that is in each other person.
I might try to redefine being a neighbour as compassion or a readiness to search for and see the need and the good, which God has placed in every person.
The compassion due to a neighbour is a love and care for one in need, like a parent for a needy child. God does care for us despite our sin and he challenges us to accept others as neighbours and to care for one another with Godlike compassion. Jesus died and rose for us all. He knew how we were and felt and yet he did not turn from any one of us. The challenge today is to open our hearts wider than we have been accustomed to and embrace God present and active in others. He who wanted “all things to be reconciled through him and for him when he made peace by his death on the cross”. (Colossians 1.20)
+ Denis J. Hart,
ARCHBISHOP OF MELBOURNE.