Monday, 18 June 2018

Individual humility and community solidarity

The grave injustice we read about in the first reading of the day, from the book of the Kings, about Naboth being killed by king Ahab for his plot of land reflects very much some of the happenings around the world today.  Someone poor and innocent is murdered merely for holding onto what is rightfully his.  The oppressor, who is much richer and powerful, gives in to his greed and commits a murder.  What's more heartbreaking is that the king and the queen, those in the highest of authority, prey upon those whom they are supposed to protect and strengthen.  Not only the rulers, but the whole system is against the poor and innocent.

What would one's response to such a tragedy be?  Or what can one do if one finds oneself in similar situations?  The Gospel seems a very absurd response:  show the other cheek!
...offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on (your) right cheek, turn the other one to him as well. If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand him your cloak as well. Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go with him for two miles. Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.
Where then is justice and how can one live an honest and simple life?  One can answer that it lies in the following passage from the Kings, when the wrath of God prophecies against Ahab and Jezebel - but that does not save neither Naboth, nor Ahab!  However, the gospel passage itself has a response.  It is of individual humility and surrender.  But that's what one is to do when one finds oneself in such a situation: surrender; not react.  But as a community each one is to stand for the one being oppressed.  Every act of injustice is to be challenged without being aggressive or hateful... just state that the act is wrong!  Gandhiji, a non-Christian understood this perfectly well!  Christian ethics is always communitarian. 

That also means that when there is injustice being meted out to someone in the society, I need to take a stand on behalf of those oppressed. This is where our society fails itself:  we expect everyone else to support and stand by us when unjustly treated, but rarely do we stand by someone who is in a similar situation.  Individual humility (having done all one can do to prevent the injustice) and community solidarity:  Sounds utopian but actually possible and humane.  No violence, no hatred, no unprovoked anger.  

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