Let them grow

Italians are having fewer children and are worried about the drop in their population. Yet, together with other European countries, they are trying to halt the flow of migrants coming from Africa and Asia, desperate for a better life. Migrants are not “one of us” and welcoming them is perceived to cause all sorts of problems.

Discrimination on the basis of difference is alive and rampant despite the most dramatic scrapping of it in South Africa in 1994. All the current wars in the world – Syria, Iraq, Palestine and the Sudan – are based on difference. They are different from us. We are unable to take the time to discover how much we have in common, as human beings, and we quickly grasp the obvious differences and make them a basis of division.

One way to struggle against this tendency we find within ourselves is to look at people as people who, like us, are doing the best they can to fulfil their dreams. Jesus had a simple image to illustrate this. While growing up in Nazareth he noticed that farmers waited before they weeded their fields. The weeds were everywhere – but if they tried to get rid of them they might also get rid of the good seed they had sown. So they waited. “Let them both grow till the harvest.” Then it will be time to sort them out.

There have always been fanatics who claim they alone are real Christians or real Muslims and the other lot should be forced to conform. The Donatists of the fourth century claimed that anyone who had compromised during the persecutions were not real Christians. And there are people who say similar things about Catholics today. Jesus does not think like that. He knows, as Augustine put it, there are people outside the Church who are really in – in the sense that they live Christian values. And there are people in the Church who are really out; they are baptised but they do not live as Christians. So who knows who is who?

And further, within each of us there is much good but also much evil. How are we going to separate them? If we are unable to sort out ourselves it is unlikely we will be able to sort out anyone else.

And perhaps it is even more complex in that the evil within us is the flip side of our goodness. Our weaknesses are the shadows of our strengths. I once worked with a man who was a great organiser. He got things done. But he was impatient of anyone who thought differently. Jesus knows us pretty well (John 2:24) and is gentle and patient with us. Can we be the same with others?

Post published in: Faith

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