Wednesday, June 8, 2011

No 'we' or 'they'

Pentecost Year A

“We…” “They …” We often use these words to refer to different groups of people. “We” usually refers to the group which I personally can identify with. I’m a member of this group. This group of mine shares common interest and are like-minded. This group of people are my friends and my loved ones.

“They” is often used to refer to people who do not belong to that special group of ours. These people are outside my group of friends and loved ones. These people are considered different – whether it be a different opinion, a different language, a background or a different religion. Very often the “we” are against “them.” They are not our friends. We distrust them. We don’t like them.

Very often, we tend to think like this. We tend to make distinctions. We tend to see our differences rather than to recognize what is common between us. “Why are we helping the English or the tamil speaking?” “Why are we taking care of the needs of the migrants?” “We should only take care of our own.”

Today’s feast reminds us that in this world there are no ‘we’ and ‘they.’ All of us are God’s children. All of us are recipients of the saving grace of Jesus. All of us are called to be that One family of God. There is no room for division and distinction in this one family of God. The poor will not be separated from the rich. The educated will not be separated from the uneducated. People of different languages and different cultures will not be separated and placed in different rooms.

This is the gift of the Holy Spirit. St. Paul reminds us in the second reading: “In the one Spirit we were all baptized, Jews as well as Greeks, slaves as well as citizens, and one Spirit was given to us all to drink.” “There is a variety of gifts but always the same Spirit; there are all sorts of service to be done, but always to the same Lord; working in all sorts of different ways in different people, it is the same God who is working in all of them.”

This is the reason why we cannot only be praying for our loved ones and friends. We cannot only be helping people who are close to us. We are also called to pray for the “others” – for our enemies, for people who hurt us, for those speak ill of us, for those who think differently, for those who are of a different skin colour or language. Filled with the Holy Spirit, Stephen did exactly this. As he was being stoned by his enemies, he prayed that God would forgive them their sins.

This is the gift and the challenge of the Holy Spirit. If we are to live according to the Holy Spirit, then there can be no room for prejudice, hatred and unforgiveness. This is because the Holy Spirit is the spirit of unity, peace and forgiveness. When Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit upon his disciples after the resurrection, the gift of the Holy Spirit comes with the challenge to his disciples to become peacemakers and a reconciling community.

One day, we will all walk hand in hand into the gates of heaven. We will hear the voice of Jesus inviting us to enter into the new Jerusalem. If we are unable to face our enemies and people whom we dislike now, how can we possibly live with them for eternity after death. In heaven, there can be no division, hatred or unforgiveness. There is only unity and love. While we are still alive in this world, let us begin to work for unity and reconciliation because heaven is only a perfect reflection of the way we have lived here on earth.

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