In The Middle, At The Back

As citizens we are called to participate in the national discourse and that discourse has gotten very polemic in the recent decades. The public discussion is now a ‘for or against’ dynamic, no in between; if ‘our side’ is not leading then we are being led wrongly. Choices made by groups are becoming more punitive then accommodating against those who disagree. The whole of society seems to be pushing to the margins any sense of common good, fellowship. Whether it is because mankind is moving away from faith, and this is the outcome; or our disordered discourse is causing us to move away from faith the result is the same: mankind is finding it harder to be in solidarity with each other. The eventuality is the evaporation the greatest commandments; love God and love our neighbor is devolving into deny God and challenge our neighbor. What are we to do? This is the choice for each of us.

For me, I look to God’s design; as a follower of Christ I am expected to stay right at the side of the marginalized, of those who suffer from the effects of our aggressive social dynamic. I will try to walk with them regardless of any differences in opinion. I will try to show compassion; I will offer love regardless of their viewpoint. Pope Benedict XVI then, and Pope Francis now, constantly remind us of what happens when God is pushed to the peripheries, or even forgotten. Pope Francis has spoken a few times on where clergy, and by necessary extension the laity, need to be on this social journey: ‘walking with our people, sometimes in front, sometimes behind and sometimes in the middle, and sometimes behind: in front in order to guide the community, in the middle in order to encourage and support; and at the back in order to keep it united and so that no one lags too, too far behind, to keep them united.[1]

Friends, with the ever increasing polarity of our society, especially our political arena, it is more important than ever that we walk behind and in the middle of our fellow man to keep hope alive for them.  Our tendency, inculcated from our society, is to push to the front, be the leader; but, as Christ’s disciples our witness comes best from these two other positions. Polemics and sophistry dominate the opinion and decision making process – distrust in our leaders is in the hearts of all. Let’s stand in the middle in solidarity next to those we encounter, including those we disagree with. Let’s walk in the back with those who struggle to keep up and urge them forward to be an active part of the societal journey, especially those who are different from us. There is no denying that our ideas and philosophies will differ. No one will have the exact same values and ideals as someone else; but we all have the same God-given dignity; and that should color our interactions.

Society will pressure us, but God is stronger. Rules will coerce us, but truth is everlasting. The only thing we need to do is choose God; choose fellowship and solidarity with our fellow man. Don’t give in to the prevailing societal dynamics of ‘for or against’, ‘ally or enemy’.

Brothers and sisters, let’s think about Christ’s victory which, as St. Paul wrote to the Philippians, began when Christ – ‘emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.[2] When He became the one next to us and the one behind us. He came for everyone, even those who persecuted and executed Him. Let’s use His example as our model of interaction. This leading from the middle and the back will change the current climate more than polemics from the front.

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[1]  Pope Francis, 10/4/13, Meeting with the clergy, consecrated people and members of diocesan pastoral councils Cathedral of San Rufino, Assisi Friday
[2] Philippians 2:17 (RSV)

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