in soul pursuit

in soul pursuit

Sunday, 29 December 2013

‘The Globalization of Indifference’: the Holy Family as Political Refugees



‘And Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and left that night for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. In this way, what the Lord had said through the prophet was fulfilled: I called my son out of Egypt.

After Herod's death, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph and said, "Get up, take the child and his mother and go back to the land of Israel, because those who tried to kill the child are dead." So Joseph got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel.

But when Joseph heard that Archilaus had succeeded his father Herod as king of Judea, he was afraid to go there. He was given further instructions in a dream, and went to the region of Galilee.’
Mt 2:14-15, 19-22


The readings for the liturgy today graphically describe the early years of Jesus’ life as a political refugee. As we watch the TV daily with images of refugees from Egypt, Syria, Iraq and a hundred and one other conflict zones it seems incredible to think that we are looking into the eyes of the infant Christ. Pope Francis recognised this when he visited the island of Lampedusa in Italy last July, shortly after being elected Pope, to show solidarity with the islanders and those who had been so cruelly deprived of their lives there. As he encouraged the folk of Lampedusa he had some salutary words for us all too:


In Spanish literature we have a comedy of Lope de Vega which tells how the people of the town of Fuente Ovejuna kill their governor because he is a tyrant. They do it in such a way that no one knows who the actual killer is. So when the royal judge asks: "Who killed the governor?", they all reply: "Fuente Ovejuna, sir". Everybody and nobody! Today too, the question has to be asked: Who is responsible for the blood of these brothers and sisters of ours? Nobody! That is our answer: It isn’t me; I don’t have anything to do with it; it must be someone else, but certainly not me. Yet God is asking each of us: "Where is the blood of your brother which cries out to me?" Today no one in our world feels responsible; we have lost a sense of responsibility for our brothers and sisters. We have fallen into the hypocrisy of the priest and the levite whom Jesus described in the parable of the Good Samaritan: we see our brother half dead on the side of the road, and perhaps we say to ourselves: "poor soul…!", and then go on our way. It’s not our responsibility, and with that we feel reassured, assuaged. The culture of comfort, which makes us think only of ourselves, makes us insensitive to the cries of other people, makes us live in soap bubbles which, however lovely, are insubstantial; they offer a fleeting and empty illusion which results in indifference to others; indeed, it even leads to the globalization of indifference. In this globalized world, we have fallen into globalized indifference. We have become used to the suffering of others: it doesn’t affect me; it doesn’t concern me; it’s none of my business!’

( Homily of Pope Francis at the "Arena" sports camp, Salina Quarter, Lampedusa, Monday, 8 July 2013)


Christmas itself is a ‘Janus-headed’ feast – it is the feast of contradictions – and opposites. We fight darkness with light, cold with warmth, sadness with joy. Like the ghouls of pestilence gnawing at the feet of the Spirit of Christmas Present, the opposite is never quite dispelled during this disconcerting, reversing time. The king of Creation is born in a stable, Magi fall at the feet of an infant, shepherds become the heralds of a new era and children become bishops while fools become wise. As we sit in our feasting halls in the warmth, light and smoke, a small lost bird flits disconcertedly in and flutters uncertainly above the revelries – only to disappear again into the engulfing darknesses outside.

Easter is the feast of gathering light and warmth – it is meant to be the feast of contradictions, but ultimately warmth and light triumph. Christmas, on the other hand, hangs in a strange stasis for eight days. Time is somehow suspended – what we used to call as children ‘between the years’. At the end of the great sparkling feast when comets blazed during the night, shepherds danced and animals gazed softly we are left with the fury of Herod and a pile of infant corpses. Even the Holy Family must ultimately flee as a dictator takes hold of the Holy Land with blood on his hands...

So let us use this time to reflect on Pope Francis’ words and make a resolution for the new year that we shall not be part of the ‘globalization of indifference’ and that our new year really will make a difference to relieve the poverty and suffering of others...

I shall be heading to India on New Year’s Day so if I do not put up a posting before then I will do so once I am in India. In the meantime I hope you enjoy the rest of the holiday and start 2014 refreshed and revived.


Best wishes




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