I RESPECT YOU
CBCI OFFICE FOR JUSTICE, PEACE AND DEVELOPMENT
St. Pius College, Aarey Road, Goregaon East, Mumbai 400063, INDIA
Tel: +91-9820332965 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Office for Justice, Peace and Development
Catholic Bishops' Conference of India
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Jesus Christ,
We are experiencing a lot of unrest in society today. We constantly hear of communal tensions, gender violence, hate crimes and suicides. The very fabric of society is unravelling in this present culture of intolerance and indifference. A particularly gruesome incident was the abduction, rape and murder of Asifa Bano, an eight-year old child, in January this year. Society failed little Asifa in various ways. She was part of a nomadic minority community. The perpetrators used Asifa in order to force her community to move out of the area. They chose to teach a nomadic tribe a lesson by confining, drugging, brutalising, strangulating to death and defiling a mere, innocent child. Society failed Asifa again when certain groups protested the arrest of the offenders.
Yet hope was not lost. Society worked together, to show solidarity with Asifa and others wronged like her, to come up with the slogan “I Respect You”. Several campaigns were held in protest against gender crimes, and called for justice to be delivered. This Justice Sunday, the Church in India would like to take up the “I Respect You” slogan in a larger context, and use it to combat the intolerance and indifference that plagues us today. Respect can be used both as a defensive shield and as a vanguard in the war against sin, which now manifests its destructive power, as Pope Francis states, in wars, various forms of violence and abuse, abandonment of the most vulnerable, and in attacks on nature (Laudato Si’ #66).
Respect is grounded in Scripture
Here are a few select incidents where God, the very Lord of all, demonstrated the value of respect. God respects life, as manifest in the commandment: “You shall not murder” (Deuteronomy 5:17). The Lord also called for the land be respected by ordering that it should rest and lie fallow every seventh year (cf. Exodus 23:10). Jesus treated a woman married multiple times with respect, a person of dubious morals by most standards, and it was through her that many in the town she inhabited came to believe in Christ (cf. John 4:7-40). Paul did not depart from Jesus’ “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's” (cf. Mark 12:17) when he instructed that everyone must be given what is due to them, including “respect to whom respect is owed” (cf. Romans 13:7). Apart from mercy, did Jesus not accord respect to those who crucified Him, when He asked the Heavenly Father to forgive them (cf. Luke 23:34)?
Four layers of respect
How then can we emulate God, and how is “Respect” applicable in the present world? We must first and foremost have respect for God – our Creator, Redeemer, Comforter and Advocate. We respect God when are reverent while receiving the Eucharist. We respect God, as we ought to, when we accord the Lord the primary place in our lives. In today’s difficult times, it is imperative that we carve out the proper space for God, and spend time in daily prayer.
Secondly, we must respect others in their capacity as fellow humans and children of God. We are instructed to respect everyone (cf. 1 Peter 2:17). Respect cannot be conditional on someone’s gender, caste or religion, for all are equal in the sight of God and everyone is created in God’s likeness. In our quest to be Christ-like, it would do us well to remember that our Lord and Master kept “questionable” company – tax payers, prostitutes, Samaritans; and extended his healing touch to the Romans who were sovereign over Israel. We have to respect the human dignity we all have in common, regardless of how different we perceive each other to be. Thus, disrespecting and marginalizing certain communities on account of their beliefs cannot be condoned. Just as God causes the sun to rise on the evil as well as the good, and sends rain on the just and unjust (cf. Matthew 5:45), our Christian values must be demonstrated to everyone, regardless of their caste or religion.
Gender crimes are not violence against women, but violence against humanity. We need to identify and overcome the influence of misogyny in our consciousness. A start can be made by recognising the different standards we find “normal” and acting to counter these. In the words of the American TV personality, Jon Stewart, “Nobody says hey, men should not drink. It’s all about women must dress differently, women must walk differently, women must drink differently. Why are we not able to hold men to account for this behavior?” At this point, it would be prudent to reiterate that humans despite their differences in gender, are created in the image and likeness of God, so all humans, including the third gender have to be respected equally. On the same note, others must be duly respected whether they are older or younger, in a position of authority or in one of servitude, without considering their place in society or their wealth. The beggar on the street is as human as the owner of a conglomerate, and equally meriting of respect.
Third, we must respect ourselves. In respecting God and in respecting others, we cannot forget that we can do so in our full capacity only when we value ourselves. Self-care cannot be neglected. In our fast-paced lives, it is easy for us to stress ourselves to the point of burn-out. So let us also make an effort to take care of, and respect, ourselves. We must not give in to the temptations of suicide or self-disparagement. The Lord did not die fr us to demean ourselves; furthermore, our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:19).
Fourthly, we must respect Creation that is akin to us human beings in being the handiwork of God. As stewards of Creation, we should strive to nurture it, rather than destroy Creation by our resource-intensive lives that trade the bounty of nature for transient human convenience. Even a small step in nurturing Creation will set us on the path of universal reconciliation with every creature, as experienced by Saint Francis of Assisi (Laudato Si’ #66).
The Gospel of today invites us to share in the meal the Eucharist: Jesus says, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever.” The life that Jesus offers us is fullness of life, or in other words, abundance of life (cf. John 10:10). The wise are the ones who partake in the meal that the Lord offers us. This life that is given to us at the Eucharist is the life each one of us is called to respect. It is in respecting the other, caring for, and loving the Creation that God has created and entrusted to us, that we share in His fullness of life. The letter to the Ephesians calls us to: “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise”. The wisdom lies in doing the will of our Heavenly Father, i.e., to treat the other with RESPECT.
Respect flows from love – and to love is the essence of all of God’s commandments. Bishop Michael Curry of the American Episcopal Church, preached on the power of love in May 2018, asking us to imagine a world where love - unselfish, sacrificial, redemptive – is the way. He said, “When love is the way, we know that God is the source of us all, and we are brothers and sisters, children of God… that's a new heaven, a new earth, a new world, a new human family.” May the grace of Christ enable us to love, respect and transform humanity.
I Respect You.
Bishop Allwyn D’Silva
Member, Office for Justice, Peace and Development
Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI)
FOR THE EUCHARISTIC CELEBRATION OF JUSTICE SUNDAY:
19 AUGUST 2018
(Prepared by Fr. Lancy Pinto, Chairperson, Commission for Justice and Peace of
The Archdiocese of Bombay. Graceful Thanks)
I RESPECT YOU
Introduction: Genesis, the first book of the Bible reveals, each one of us is created in God’s image. Each one of us is unique—a very special creation of God. Pope Francis in his encyclical Laudato Si (No.155) says “ Learning to accept our body, to care for it and to respect its fullest meaning, is an essential element of any genuine human ecology” Therefore each one of us should not only value ourselves highly, but should be able to respect one another. One should not limit ourselves to respecting one another but move ahead to respect the whole of creation. The readings of today invites us to the banquet. Let us therefore pray at this Eucharist that as we partake of the one bread and one cup we may grow in respect for life.
1st Reading: Prov 9:1-6
2nd Reading: Eph 5:15-20
Gospel: John 6:51-58
Prayer of the Faithful
Celebrant: God our loving father you created us in your own image and likeness. We your children today humbly place before you our needs and petitions trusting that you will grant us what we truly deserve.
Response: God, you who love and respect all life, hear us!
We pray for Pope Francis that by his example of respect to whole of creation and his clarion call to all nations to protect nature and respect to all human beings may be able to bring transformation in the world. For this we pray to the Lord. R. God, you who love and respect all life, hear us!
For all people: May God grant us strength and courage to embrace his precious gift of life, even in the most difficult of situations. For this we pray to the Lord. R. God, you who love and respect all life, hear us!
For all Catholics: May the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist strengthen us to take proactive role in preserving life; for this we pray to the Lord: R. God, you who love and respect all life, hear us!
For the marginalized and those deprived of their human needs and rights: that they may be given the dignity, which God confers, on all his people; for this we pray to the Lord: R. God, you who love and respect all life, hear us!
That the government and those involved in political life, and every citizen as well, may grow in the awareness that any behavior that does not respect life and creation destroys the very foundation of peace; for this we pray to the Lord R. God, you who love and respect all life, hear us!
Let us pray for personal and local needs R. God, you who love and respect all life, hear us!
Celebrant: O gracious God, giver of all that is good, grant us our prayers through Christ our Lord.
It was 4th of July 2018, just a day after the collapse of the Andheri Bridge, I had to attend a matter in the city civil court in town. As I entered Mahim station around 9am, I noticed that platform No.2 was over crowded. The trains were half an hour late because of the repair work undertaken on the Andheri bridge. After I waited 20 minutes the Churchgate bound train arrived and since it was over crowded, I did not attempt to board the train. As I stood watching the hustle and bustle, I noticed an elderly man trying to push himself, in an attempt to board the train that was already moving. He got hold of the handle and managed to get one foot on board, but those standing on the doorway pushed him out. Fortunately, he managed to balance himself as he was pushed off the running train and control his fall. I guess this is not an uncommon sight these days as people grow in selfishness and apathy towards others. Some years ago the same situation would be a totally different scenario. Those standing on the doorway would extend their hands help to people get in, making sure they did not miss their train and get to work on time. They gently reprimanded them once safely inside saying “ Aare bhai aise mat chado, aur ek gadi aa jayegi , lekhin jaan chale jayegi to kaya karoge?. (Don’t do this again brother, there are plenty of trains. If you lose your life then what ???)
The world is changing so fast, values seem to be diminishing. As individuals we are becoming more self centred as result of which one tends to be growing in total disrespect for persons or life in general. We have moved into a techno savvy world. We seem to be more involved with technological gadgets and disconnected with human persons. The human person is losing its essence. In our world today we are treated as commodities, or as a machine and hence if we lack productivity then we are worthless and the society fails to respect us. It perceives you more as a liability than as an asset. Passive euthanasia manifests this type of thinking, that a person who is non- productive is not needed in the society. The person himself feels he / she is worthless and therefore may choose passive euthanasia.
This loss of respect for human person has led to loss of life. When a person begins thinking that s/he is unwanted and feels worthless and realizes that nobody respects him/her anymore it is more likely that such a person may attempt to put an end to his own life or may want others to kill him/her. According to Wikipedia about 800,000 people commit suicide worldwide every year, and of these 135,000 (17%) are residents of India. If one has noted, suicidal tendencies are on the rise due to loss of respect for life.
‘I Respect You’ is a campaign that needs to be continued and consistent not restricting itself only to human life but considering everything that promotes life. Similarly, caring for creation is precisely a way of saying we respect God’s creation. When we do this and promote and uphold human rights, moreover the rights of the marginalised and the downtrodden, we are inclusive in our respect for all creation.
In the ‘I Respect You’ campaign ... The “you “ could stand for any person male or female, poor and the rich, the young and the elderly, the sick, the physically challenged, differentially abled persons or our natural surroundings comprising of the flora, fauna, rivers, lakes, seas and oceans, the mountains or valleys, the minerals or the mangroves. When one begins to respect the other then one begins to love and care. The respect for the other creates sense of gratitude and responsibility to serve others.
Today’s first reading tells us about the banquet that wisdom offers us and is in partaking of this feast that leads us to life. In the gospel Jesus also speaks of life when he says “ I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” (John 6:51) Consequently therefore those who do not eat and drink have no life, for they have no intimacy with the "Son of Man." Jesus also said we must drink his blood. In Jewish thought the blood stands for the life. When a person having a serious injury loses a lot of blood, very often on admission to a hospital the patient is given blood and upon receiving blood he receives new life. Therefore when Jesus said we must drink his blood he meant that we must take His life into the very core of our hearts. The Eucharist we partake in brings us new life. It is this new life that we are called to share in. Wisdom comes as a gift from God himself, it is His spirit of life that He gives us. The book of Ephesians calls us to live as “wise” people.
Who is a wise wo/man? According to the letter to Ephesians a wise wo/man is the one who understands what the Lord’s will is and does it . As the psalmist says “Blest is he who delights in the law of the Lord” (Ps 1:1) Jesus fulfilled His Father’s will He remained obedient to the father till the point of His death on the cross.
Jesus showed respect to every human person especially to the sinners the lepers, the prostitutes and tax collectors who were considered as the scum of the society. Women and children were never taken into account and yet we find Jesus showing great respect to the Samaritan woman, the woman caught in adultery and to the children, Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." (Mt 19:14). Though he was the master Jesus washed the feet of his disciples thus showing his great respect to every human person.
Respect to human person and to creation is deeply rooted in our Indian culture. The Indian national pledge composed by Pydimarri Venkata Subha Rao noted author in Telugu and a bureaucrat was introduced in many schools in 1963.
India is my country. All Indians are my brothers and sisters.
I love my country and I am proud of its rich and varied heritage.
I shall always strive to be worthy of it.
I shall give my parents, teachers and all elders respect and treat everyone with courtesy.
To my country and my people, I pledge my devotion.
In their well being and prosperity, alone lies my happiness.
This pledge reminds us that we need to respect and treat everyone with courtesy. We fail to be the children of God when show disrespect to human beings and at the same time disrespect God when we fail to respect his creation.