Is Equality a Pipe Dream? Difference Matters

Jun 17, 2020

I want to share some thoughts for this week and include the vision of the book Biblical Spirituality by Fr Albert Nolan 0P.  Vive la difference!  Isn’t that what the French have been saying for ages, but particularly a celebration of the differences between men and women? It is seen as positive, as having regard for.  Now,    however, the French, like everyone else, are in trouble. People in general are not valuing differences but demanding equality. Even Christians, in a sense, have reduced difference to much narrower concepts such as “Black Lives Matter,” (on aspects of racism) “Enough is enough” (on various forms of abuse).  Is there an element of jealousy, envy, resentment?  Are people wanting to have what others have and no longer satisfied with what was previously considered “one of those things in dozens of different ways?” Now the focus is on rights and because of disadvantages naturally there are hurts and at times these explode in conflict, violence and fear. Differences need to be considered with justice but equality on all fronts is a pipe-dream. I wonder if it is really equality that people want or is it something deeper.

A recognition of the positive side of difference seems to be lost.  Is it not true that life itself is not fair, as can easily be learned in family interactions. The aim of integral development towards the greatest degree of  human growth as well as the greatest fullness in all of creation is not built on equality but on justice.

Albert Nolan in Biblical Spirituality present justice when referring to the God of the Old Testament and love in the New Testament, practised to the highest degree and taught by Jesus.  The Old Testament prophets read the signs of the times, dialogued with God, recognised that God could be angry and could allow a catastrophe, e.g. exile in Babylon, to come about if people did not repent. His love, which underpinned his justice, nevertheless is expressed often as mercy and compassion.

In the New Testament love is the basis of the spirituality of Jesus and compassionate love goes beyond justice.  Jesus’ spirituality is a Kingdom spirituality, the kingdom being not only eternal life, but present life built on kingdom values. Jesus’, reading of the signs of the times, prophesied the coming of the Kingdom, as God’s reign, in which love, compassion, justice and all the values of God would be concretely and fully realised. Nolan states, “Spiritual life is simply a matter of imitating Jesus and seeing the signs of the times.” Today they include the corona virus, racism, police brutality, gender-based violence, child abuse and destruction of the environment. Gradually the Kingdom can – and should – become a reality for us.

If we want to share God’s feelings about something we look at Jesus and see how he feels and measure our feelings or concerns or values against his. Four examples are noted:   SHARING, HUMAN DIGNITY, HUMAN SOLIDARITY, SERVICE.  Clearly these values, Gospel or Kingdom values are about people.

Dealing with one of the very serious issues of the day, #Blacklivesmatter, has brought thousands of people out on the streets. They demonstrated against police injustice, oppressive laws or behaviour which are an abuse of power, but themselves also became involved in rioting and violence. If respect exists for people and human dignity of all, as well as an acceptance that differences are real, then in the spirit of justice and love issues should be able to be addressed.  Equality is probably a more elusive issue.

As prophets of our day reading these signs Nolan challenges us men and women, Catholics, Christians, all people of good will to adopt and live the Kingdom values. Is our common faith journey sufficiently focused on God’s plans?  The coronavirus pandemic may not be a specific punishment from God but there is no doubt that the massive catastrophe is nature’s response to our human abuse. That challenges us all to examine our values

This month’s family theme is “Children belong in families.”  June16 was Youth Day and Sunday 21 June is Father’s Day.  Irrespective of the big social issues we are facing, family life is a foundation issue. Fathers belong in families too and are needed to build healthy families.  How many fathers are good role models especially to their teenage sons and daughters? How many are abusive and why?

When God is a welcome presence in a home and prayer and Kingdom values are practised we can transform our lives and sow the seeds of the Kingdom in our world and all creation today.

This weekend the Church commemorates important days to keep in our prayers.  The feast of the Sacred Heart on Friday,  the Immaculate Heart of Mary on Saturday and Father’s Day on Sunday.      TR Family Weekly 17 June 2020

FATHERHOOD ref and prayer

For a special Father’s Day blessing see: 2015 youth and dads. in 2019

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