Print Version    Email to Friend
A neighbour to all

The great concern that Jesus always held for human dignity is expressed in the story of the healing of the man with impaired hearing and a speech impediment that we listen to in the liturgy for today.
Onlookers commented that he makes the deaf hear and the dumb speak, something that is prefigured in the first reading from the prophet Isaiah, “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, the ears of the deaf unsealed, then the lame shall leap like a deer and the tongues of the dumb sing for joy.”
This very same concern for human dignity was taken up in the Second Vatican Council in the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et Spes). It is a document that the council fathers requested mid-stream in the council, as their discussions saw the need for something on the relationship of the Church with the world was a necessary addition to their reflections.
The opening words of the document set the scene of the commitment of the Church as the people of God to the whole human family.
“The joys and hopes, the grief and the anguish of the people of our time, especially of those who are poor or afflicted, are the joys and the hopes, the grief and the anguish of the followers of Christ as well.”
The document calls on the well-worn biblical references to the Church as the light of the world, the salt of the earth and a leaven in society.
It points out that the Church is not separated from wider society, but stands right in the middle of it, with the challenge to offer hope and joy in what may otherwise be dark and confusing situations. It also sets out to question what it calls the general vision of the world which it says tends to be extremely limited.
We are all called to strive to become the people that God wants us to be, but the Vatican II document points out that we can only do this through Christ, as we are made in the image and likeness of God and can only reach our destiny of being fully human in imitation of and in communion with the one who is a perfect reflection of the divine reality.
So the question arises, how can we attain the freedom to become such a person? The council fathers suggest, “People gain such freedom when, freeing themselves of all slavery to the passions, they press forward towards their goal by freely choosing what is good.”
In other words, we attain freedom in the service of others.
They then point out that this is not something that can be achieved alone, but can only be done in the midst of community, the community of the family, the Church and the wider society.
This describes the call to every Christian to be a neighbour to every individual in the world or to look upon others as being another self. It is a direct call to involve ourselves in the quest for justice, in the provision of food for all, clothing, housing, education and the right to work.
As Jesus offered himself to restoring speech, sight and hearing, we too are called to promote human dignity.

● Homily notes for Year of  Grace Adelaide Archdiocese