One thing I am learning much about is the damage done to people’s equanimity of spirit by the safety procedures put in place in response to sexual abuse and by the perception of the whole institution as a result of the behaviour of a few of its members. OXFAM is reeling from what happened to it and even the UN is touched. In one religious community, which runs a large and flourishing educational establishment, the safety procedures are so comprehensive they appear to prevent expressions of affection or trust between youths and adults.
One person I met gave me a vivid description of the erosion of opportunity to build trust, which, as he pointed out, is the basis of all relationships. We cannot have safeguards ruling our lives – however much they have their place. We have to “reach out into the deep” and take risks if we are ever to have healthy relationships with others. While we rejoice in the affirmation of human rights, particularly of the vulnerable, we seem, at times, to forget that these rights are arid if they cannot be developed in relation to others.
So, once again, we need to flash across the screen Donne’s words “no man is an island” and every person has to reach out to others no matter how risky that may be. What were the people thinking when they approached Jesus? (John 6:3) They were attracted by him but had no real idea why. In the first chapter of John, Jesus actually turns on his heel when some people follow him and asks, “What do you want?” They don’t know what they want and avoid a reply by asking their own question, “Where do you live?” What is clear is they are looking for something but are not sure what.
The gospels are accounts of how people are attracted to Jesus; but then many draw back when they realise the price of coming close to him. We both want and do not want relationship. We flee from the very thing that draws us. Can we trust? Can we trust ourselves and others? Safeguards have their place but when they leave no room for trust you wonder what they are achieving.
In the final chapter of Matthew, when the women were running away from the tomb “in fear and great joy” – in other words they wanted and did not want to meet Jesus – they suddenly saw him approaching them. If we can be patient in our confusion we may find the same.
29 July 2018 Sunday 17 B
2 Kings 4:42-44 Ephesians 4:1-6 John 6:1-15Post published in: Faith