Thursday, January 26, 2012

Reasons for Respect of the Other

A priest columnist of the Peace Weekly introduces us to a foreign bishop, now dead, who had a large following and was considered a model bishop. The column recounts several stories that have circulated about the bishop's life.

His cathedral had recently been designated a basilica, and during the inaugurating ceremonies, the bishop, in his sermon, was explaining to the congregation the signification of calling the cathedral church a basilica.  "It comes from an old word meaning king," he pointed out, "and so today we celebrate making this cathedral into a basilica, the house of a king. By the name change we are saying that Jesus, our king, resides here in this building."

On hearing this explanation, a young man in the congregation raised his hand and asked: "All churches have the Lord residing in them; why do we call one a basilica and the other a church?"

The unexpected question caused the bishop to hesitate, not knowing how best to answer. It was an older priest who answered the question, explaining that there are two kinds of sanctuaries: one built with bricks and stone and one built with flesh and blood--our bodies. Since they are the abode of the Lord, they also are basilicas.

That evening the bishop, on returning to the cathedral after being out with the young people for a drive--he had a great love for the young and they for him--saw a homeless person, apparently drunk, on the cathedral steps. Coming to mind were the words: "What are we going to do with this fleshly-made basilica?' He knew what to do, getting out of the car and bringing the man into his office.

This is just one of the many stories that have been told about this bishop, our columnist tells us. Persons are not commodities, not means to an end, but are themselves the end. He mentions that he hesitates reading news reports because so many are about children who have been ostracized and treated as things. Especially demoralizing for him are the stories that tell us about children who, because of failing to meet academic requirements, disappointing not only themselves but family and friends, have decided that the world is too stressful and a place where they no longer want to live.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Why has this deplorable situation developed? Is it not because we see people as means and not as ends?  When the media considers what and how to cover a news story, it is often money that comes into focus. When money is center stage, where is the person going to fit ? he asks.

Life is not to be squandered, cast away as if it were an outworn garment. It is God's will for us to live and, as we are told in scripture, "to live more abundantly."  Not to kill others is also part of his will for us.  When we enter a church, we take off our hats and offer homage. When we meet another person, shouldn't this same respect be extended to whomever we meet?

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