Fr. Joe Thaler, MM, reflects on respecting and valuing our neighbors, especially those who are marginalized. This reflection was originally published in 2013.
A few hours ago I was just beginning to sit down and write my reflection for this Sunday’s reading when the phone rang. I answered the phone and immediately I knew that the person on the other end was very emotionally upset and crying. All she could say to me was, “I am quitting, I really want to quit…” It took a few minutes for her to calm down enough to tell me that she was quitting her job. She had just been in a work-related meeting and while different tasks and jobs were assigned and she was completely ignored. She said, “I cannot work in place where people do not respect me and where I am not noticed.”
Isn’t this so much a part of our everyday reality? I, and maybe you also, have felt unnoticed or disrespected at times. We live in a world where we can easily encounter many people that we ourselves don’t notice or respect. They may be the poor, the marginalized, those who have a different faith, different views or lifestyle. It is so easy to dismiss other people because they are not like us!
In Nepal, where I live as a Maryknoll missioner, so many young people are trafficked out of the country for prostitution and for labor. They are not respected for who and what they are, but only for what services they can provide, and even then they are only wanted for a limited time and then they are discarded.
But not only do we disrespect individuals but also the environment. Nepal, as one of the least developed nations, is bearing the heavy burden of climate change, despite its negligible contribution to greenhouse gas emissions as well as low consumption of ODS (ozone-depleting substances).
The Himalayan snows are melting at an accelerated pace thus endangering the water supply for millions of people in Asia. So where is the respect for the environment and for all those who are suffering now, and who will surely be suffering more in the near future?
In the first reading for this Sunday, Ezra calls the people together, the men and women and all children, and they come to know and understand the Word of God. Their gathering takes away the sadness. Let us see who among us feels disrespected and marginalized and let us listen to them, so that we to can know and understand and take away their sadness. Let those in decision-making positions, the policymakers, also listen and be respectful of one another and be not so quick to dismiss one another. Let us come to realize that without respecting the other, there will be no peace!
Ezra was the one to do this in his time, and maybe today we are the ones to do it for ours. Ezra read from the Law and the people listened and all came to understand. I think that with this understanding came a great sense of responsibility towards one another and the world in which they lived, so that Ezra could now say to those assembled, “Go your way, eat the fat and drink sweet wine,” for now indeed we are community and committed to helping one another, and the Lord is with us.
In the second reading, we hear how we all have been blessed with gifts by God for the common good of the Church and for all people. Can we be respectful of the gifts that are given to our brothers and sisters?
The words of Jesus in the Gospel ring true for all of us today, and we pray that we can hold these words close to our hearts. We seek forgiveness for the times we have failed to be respectful of one another and the environment. We pray that by asking for this forgiveness, we will be empowered to live in freedom and dignity so that the fullness of God’s love and compassion will be known by all of God’s creation. When individually we do this, each one of us will then be fully involved in the mission of Jesus. We will be anointed and commissioned to bring the Good News to all.
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