THIRTIETH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
Tolerance Arises from Self-reflection
Empathy is Valuable in Understanding Others
First Reading (Jer 31: 7-9 God calls the remnant to return to their land
Second Reading (Heb 5: 1 -6) Jesus is the High Priest
Gospel (Mk 10: 46-52) Healing of the blind man from Jericho
Chinese Classics: -
“The Way of loyalty and consideration: Loyalty is to take responsibility as far as one cant, and consideration is to forgive others as much as possible..”(1)
-“To serve my father, as I would require my son to serve me: to this I have not attained. To set the example in behaving towards a friend as I would require him to behave towards me: to this I have not attained. “ (2)
“He is able to deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is subject to weakness, and because of this he must offer sacrifice for his own sins as well as for those of the people.” (Heb 5: 2 – 3)
The Bible is the word God speaks to me here and now. It is not just a story or something from afar, or abstract, or having no relation with my life. Accordingly, while reading the Bible we need to ask: What is God revealing to me today? What is God asking me to do now? What changes in my life does God hope I will make? Today’s scripture gives a description of Jesus' priesthood and also through writings of other priests gives us some principles for human living.
In the Epistle to the Hebrews Paul finds it worthwhile to emphasize these two points about the qualifications of the High Priest:
1) The High Priest must be a human person, chosen from among other human beings. That is, he is neither an angel nor a spirit.
2) The Priest is appointed by God; he does not recommend himself nor is he elected to his position by others.
The Catholic Church has the concept of a “call” which comes from God, from above down to us. The church is not an ordinary social group. It has doctrine, rules of behavior, rituals. Of course it also has ‘priests’ who preside over liturgical services.
Paul mentions something even more important. The High Priest is selected from among the people, comes from the people and is truly human like other people.
Since he is human, the priest is subject to human weakness. He must offer sacrifice for the sins of the people, but also offer sacrifice for his own sins. Although the task he undertakes is a sacred one, he is neither stronger, better nor holier than others.
This self-awareness should lead to humility for those determined to be the Catholic Church's priests, its leaders in life's struggles. They must always be careful that in trying to save others, they fail to save themselves. A Church of sinners makes demands on others, but even more on oneself.
Paul goes further, implying that leaders in the Church should demand perhaps even more of themselves, and be more lenient with others. Such an attitude will help them to be gentle and understanding with those who may be ignorant or who go astray, and enable them to be empathetic with others. Empathy is the ability to put oneself in the others' shoes. Those who are able to be empathetic can sympathize with others, and then understands how to forgive.
.Confucius thought that we should follow “The Way of loyalty and consideration for others.” For those of us with religious beliefs, we should pay even more attention to this Way. “Loyalty is to take responsibility as far as one can and consideration is to forgive others as much as possible.” (1) This means that we should expect more of ourselves but be less strict with others.
When on the China mainland, I would hear people sometimes censuring priests for some undesirable action, I felt very uneasy. I did not wonder whether the priest should or should not have done such a thing, I only thought if I were in his position and situation I may have done the same. How can I censure him, or be qualified to ‘throw the first stone,’ and condemn him for wrongdoing?
Chinese culture is characterized by ‘starting from oneself.’ This perspective on life means to look inward to oneself and not demand from others what one does not demand of oneself!
Confucius once thought that ‘in the way of the superior man (the perfect gentleman) there are four things’ but he had not been able to attain any one of them. “To serve my father as I would require my son to serve me, to this I have not attained. To serve my prince as I would require my minister to serve me, to this I have not attained. To serve my elder brother as I would require my younger brother to serve me, this I have not attained; to set the example in behaving to a friend as I would require him to behave towards me, this I have not attained.” (Doctrine of the Mean”, #13) (2) Confucius was saying that if he demanded something of another person, he himself must first fulfill that demand; but he felt he had not been able to do this. That is to say, if he wanted his son to treat him well yet was unable to treat his father in the same way!
Are we not the same? Instead of ‘forgiving with consideration’ we sometimes act exactly opposite. We do not blame ourselves but censure others harshly. We neither have sympathy for others, nor excuse or forgive them.
In psychology, there is a role playing exercise called ‘exchanging roles.’ One puts oneself into a certain role and tries to imagine what a person in such a situation would feel. The activity is very helpful to us when we are trying to treat others with greater tolerance and empathy.