Pope Francis says that ‘issues of human fraternity and social friendship’ are always a concern for him (FT, no.4). This is obvious as time after time, he highlights the plight of those living in poverty and those governed by unjust structures. Pope Francis and the Grand Imam Ahmad Al-Tayyeb met in Abu Dhabi in 2016 and declared, ‘God has created all human beings equal in rights, duties and dignity and has called them to live together as brother and sisters’ (FT, no.5).
Chapter One of Fratelli Tutti, the Encyclical Letter of the Holy Father Francis on Fraternity and Social Friendship (2020), is entitled ‘Dark Clouds Over A Closed World’. It spells out the ‘shattered dreams’, the deconstruction, the ‘throwaway world’, the poverty, the infringement of human rights, the slavery, loneliness and fear and other issues that inhibit people from the fullness of life in the world. This type of society is not new to these times. History shows that humankind’s inhumanity to humankind is rife for many centuries and continues.
Today’s first reading proclaimed at Mass (Ex 1:8-14) describes how under the authority of a new King in Egypt the Egyptians enslaved the Israelites. The Egyptians, threatened by the Israelites and their work ethic were afraid that they might bring war on the Egyptians and escape from the country. The Egyptians began to oppress them and treat them badly. They made them carry heavy loads and had them build the ‘store-cities’ of Pithom and Ramases. They forced them into slavery. However, the more the Egyptians oppressed them the more the Israelites grew in strength and increased in number. Not being able to overcome the Israelites, Pharaoh commanded his subjects ‘Throw all the boys born to the Hebrews into the river, but let all the girls live.’
Slavery, oppression and violence continue in the world but God remains close in time of need. Pope Francis quotes the Bishops of South Africa and their dream to form ‘a society based on service to others, rather than the desire to dominate.’ In addition, ‘a society based on sharing what one has with others, rather than the selfish scramble by each for as much wealth as possible.’ Furthermore, ‘a society in which the value of being together as human beings is ultimately more important than any lesser group, whether it be family, nation, race or culture.’ (FT, 229).
Psalm 123, with the response ‘Our help is in the name of the Lord’ indicates the reliance of people on God’s help always. The psalmist exclaims what might happen the Israelites if God was not on their side. God assures people of God’s presence and support always.
The Gospel proclaimed at Mass (Mt 10:34-11:1) brings to a conclusion Jesus’ instructions to the Twelve. He speaks to them about how in the light of persecution, they must continue to love God and their neighbour. Love of God comes first. This entails the disciple carrying one’s cross and losing one’s life in order to find it. This demands a life of self-sacrifice, prayer and a desire to do God’s will. God will reward the one who gives a cup of cold water to one in need, the one who welcomes Jesus, the one who welcomes the prophet and God will reward the just person.
Justice and fairness are recurring themes in the Grow in Love/ I nGrá Dé religious education programme. Access to resources is on the Grow in Love website including access to the Grow in Love/I nGrá Dé Children’s textbook and/or e-book
- Our Father/An Phaidir
- Prayer to Guardian Angel/Paidir chuig an Aingeal Coimhdeachta
- Act of Hope/Gníomh Dóchais
- In your Bible or Grow in Love 5/I nGrá Dé 5 (Rang 3) the reading proclaimed at Mass today (Exodus:1:8-14, 22)
- In what ways are people oppressed in the world today? Where is there an infringement of human rights in the world? What can citizens do to ensure that every person can live in dignity?
- Find out about the UN Development Goals, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that the United Nations designed to create a better world for all, by 2030.
Sr Anne Neylon