The other evening during the zoom meeting, there was a consensus to revive in-person meetings, which prompted me to reflect on the concept of being Face to Face.
While reading the scriptures, I have noticed that Jesus always sought a Face to Face meeting with the excluded – those marginalised from power – the nobodies held in poverty and injustice on the peripheries by political and economic systems and structures, e.g. the blind, the lame, the cripples, the lepers, the homeless, the paralytic, the excluded.
Jesus always met them Face to Face, not through their representatives, and listened attentively to their stories. At times, he even encouraged them to tell him their story. It was his way of giving them their dignity as people and increasing their respect.
If you notice carefully, Jesus always took the direct approach. In that sense, they became agents of their destiny — with the ability to participate or contribute to the community.
Pope Francis in Fratelli Tutti wrote, ‘No one is useless, and no one is expendable’. Hence, we must find ways to include those on the peripheries of life, for they have another way of looking at things; they see aspects of reality that are invisible to the centres of power, where they make the heavyweight decisions.
On the margins of power, one does not simply find poverty and deprivation; One finds people with dignity gathering up the rejected and fighting to make the world better for everyone.
The call of Pope Francis to go out to the margins of power is not just about giving a voice to the voiceless but also about recognising, in prayerful humility, that our sisters and brothers on the peripheries of life are already speaking, witnessing to God in a world of poverty, exclusion and in-justice.
One avenue for lifting us and healing the patterns and structures of marginalisation in our Church and our world is to systematically bring the peripheries into the centre of life in the Church.
Bringing the peripheries to the centre means constantly endeavouring to support the disempowered as protagonists in the life of the Church. It also means providing a place in the priorities, budgets and energies of every Church community, to those victimised and ignored. It means advocating forcefully against racism and economic exploitation. In short, it means creating genuine solidarity.
May I suggest a possible VISION?
Develop a structure whereby we go out to the margins of power to meet, listen attentively and learn, through regular Face to Face (not through representatives) to those sisters and brothers of ours who live there and who are already speaking, witnessing to God in a world of poverty, exclusion and injustice.
Furthermore, may I suggest that they should be invited to the annual Diocesan J&P assembly?
As Pope Francis said, ‘In seeking to address poverty and injustice, we must remember our goal is enabling persons to become dignified agents of their destiny.’
The gospel of Mark (6:1-6) tells us that progress in the spiritual life – growth in the spirit – almost always shows itself in the ability to recognise the presence of God more and more in the ordinary every day. The complete meaning of the incarnation is not just that the Son of God became a human being but also that he took human form in a town/village as ordinary and insignificant and out of the way as Nazareth. The gospel invites us to identify and name the “Nazareth” in ourselves.