Sacrificing for our community “unties” us to become something greater … self interest keeps us lonely & frustrated


Sacrificing for our community “unties” us to become something greater … self interest keeps us lonely & frustrated

How do we link our world, our society, and ourselves to the events of Holy Week?  Thankfully, I was inspired by the following from the Tablet magazine newsletter (written, I believe, by Sophia Rayzan: 19-Mar-24):

Aristotle famously said: “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”  It is possible to move away from extremes and to embrace respect for our differences.  We cannot improve our society if the issue of increasing polarisation is not addressed.  We can encourage collaboration and innovation.  We can learn from the Patron Saint of Ukraine, Saint Josaphat, who emphasised the necessity of dialogue and mutual respect between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches.  He sought to find a common understanding through shared faith in Christ.  

It is clear that more and more divisions are developing both at “home” and around the world.  As the old expression goes: “when we try to go alone, we go fast, but not very far.

One of the curses of life in Kenya and Africa, generally, are the high levels of poverty. We do not want to promote or allow poverty to exist, however, one of the key lessons we can learn from poverty is that we need everyone to contribute in order to survive.

But the general principal is: when one of us has a serious problem, all our community chips in to help: not because they have an excess at that moment, but because they all make an extra sacrifice from the little they have, to help the other.

Unfortunately, as our society and families become wealthier, we can develop a special form of poverty by going our own way and letting everyone look after themselves: and then we demand the Government do things for us and become dependent slaves on the Government.

That is, we make fewer painful sacrifices for each other, because the physical needs reduce: and we forget the positive strength we gain from feeling appreciated, feeling important and needed in my family and community.

One of the five key emotional needs we all have is a sense of belonging.  The less we sacrifice or contribute to a community or family, the less we feel we belong.

Coming back to Aristotle, the less we sacrifice for each other, the less we are as a whole.
It is interesting that the iPhone “revolution” has inspired so many other i-things.

The iPhone is a brilliant invention, and a huge leap forward in technology: but the constant encouragement for us to “do my own thing”, and “do it when I want to”, is leading to a “lesser society”, with more conflict and greater use of drugs and alcohol to kill the pain of loneliness.

St Josaphat, mentioned in the quotation above, sacrificed his life (tortured) while trying to bring the two churches closer together.  But his death eventually led to a greater relationship between the Churches.

The sacrifice of Christ, too, has brought us back together like nothing else could have.
If we want to stop the divisions, we must (sorry for saying must), but we must make greater sacrifices for our family and our neighbours.  Part of that sacrifice is the essential requirement to speak out against injustice: you will not be popular and it may cost you your life.

When we look at the life of Jesus on earth, it was all designed to bring people back to their community: the lepers, the blind, the lame, the sick, the sinners (Zacchaeus), and the stubborn!  The stubborn ones were the leaders, and he challenged them over their behaviour so that they, the LEADERS, could be reunited with their people.

Imitating a conquering King returning from battle (the custom was to ride in on a powerful horse), Christ our King entered Jerusalem on a donkey.  But the donkey symbolises something new: Jesus has won a different battle.  Instead of killing people which maintains (or creates divisions), Jesus Christ has created a revolution that brings people back together.

By doing so, Christ created a new whole that is greater than its parts: the Church.  As the world tries to kill the Church, society becomes more divided, more unhappy and, soon, less prosperous.  The Church is full of imperfections, because our world is full of people in pain.

But the Church is the place where we can look for the truth and try to apply it “as best as we can” in my given situation.  Then, as after the resurrection of Jesus, we will be able to grow more perfect in love until we can also die for others to make it possible for them to be re-united.

Take courage in life: be ready to sacrifice for others, even if you know they will not appreciate it today.  Protect the truth because you love your people.  Your resurrection is coming.

By Gerard Conlan, OMI