Me and them

I do not think we will ever rest from wondering, as the ancient Greeks did, what is the relationship between the one and the many. When I was starting out in my studies, eons ago, I did not understand the question and I hardly do now.

We experience ourselves, starting perhaps at the age of three, as relating to others; parents, siblings, uncles and aunts. We grow very conscious of our finding our place in the family, the school, the society. It’s a matter of survival, at least at a basic level.

But at the same time we discover ourselves as ‘I’ and we sense that there is no one in the whole world – there never was and there never will be – like me. I am unique. I enjoy the fact that I am me! I have my own feelings, my own thoughts and my own way of doing things. But I am not able to manage alone. There is no way I could survive on my own. I need others.

So I am somehow in tension between being an individual and being a member of a community of some sort. How do I live this tension? It is not difficult to relate to like-minded people, friends, peers, ‘one of us.’ But it is not so easy when people are different, of another race, ability, age, religion or whatever. They are not ‘one of us.’

It is very easy to say but quite difficult to practice; we are ALL brothers and sisters on a journey to a home of total unity, of comm-unity. This Sunday’s readings use a stark word: ‘stealing’. ‘No one can steal from the Father.’ What would ‘stealing from the Father’ mean? To my mind, it means diverting a person from the path an individual has chosen, a path that leads straight to God. If one is fixed on God, nothing can hinder them, no one can ‘steal’ them. You can kill them if you want but you cannot steal them from their purpose. The martyrs have shown us this and there are millions of martyrs all over the world, unnoticed, uncelebrated.

So there is a bedrock of individuality for which we are each responsible and if we are faithful to it, the community is built up. If we allow ourselves to be ‘stolen’ the community is debilitated.

Sorry, if this is all very theoretical. But the point surely is: if we are faithful as individuals the community blossoms. If we mess up as individuals, the community suffers. You have only to look at Ethiopia, Yemen or Ukraine if you want to see what it means in practice. And you do not have to go that far away to see it. It is on our doorstep.

8 May 2022                 Easter Sunday 4C       Acts 13:43-52    Rev7: 14-17    John 10:28-30

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