Unmaking Distinctions

 

Fr. Frank Pavone

 
  9/1/1997
 

We tend to do it all the time. We think that because another person is different, he/she has less value. We make artificial distinctions, particularly about those to whom we are hostile. We forget that they are our neighbors.

We see in the Gospel that Christ constantly breaks down artificial distinctions regarding the value of people. He does so in regard to race. There was a longstanding hostility between Jews and Samaritans. Despite that, however, the Lord does not hesitate to speak with the Samaritan woman and offer her the gift of faith. Furthermore, He spends a couple of days among the Samaritans, bringing many others to the same faith (Jn. 4:4-42).

A second area in which the Lord destroys false distinctions is gender. Despite His society’s unequal treatment of women, He allows women to travel with Him and the apostles (Lk. 8:3). Although the testimony of women was not accepted in His day, he entrusts a woman with the task of testifying to the most important fact of human history: His own Resurrection (Jn. 20:17).

Nor does the Lord allow health and condition of dependency to be a cause of discrimination. He tends to the sick, the lunatics and the possessed (Mk. 1:32), when others would rather avoid them. Lepers were outcasts, yet He sought them out.

Distinctions based on occupation also fall. He associates with tax collectors, who were despised in His society. They were, after all, collecting for a foreign government, and they were also considered dishonest. Yet the Lord even calls one of them, Matthew, to be an apostle (Mt. 9:9).

Moral status likewise is a barrier that Christ breaks through. He calls His followers to love their enemies, to pray for their persecutors and to forgive from the heart (Mt. 5:44; 18:21-35).

Finally, the Lord declares that age does not destroy equality. On a day when people were bringing their children to have Him bless them, the disciples told them to go away. After all, the Savior of the World had more important things to attend to than a group of crying children. Yet, He rebukes the disciples for this attitude and welcomes and blesses the children and infants. Not only does He declare them equal, but proposes them as models for everyone else (Lk. 18:15-16).

Christ does not allow artificial distinctions to stand. He cuts through discrimination with the clarity of the truth that we are all children of one Father. Our attitudes to the preborn children will also be judged by this truth. Our society has falsely discriminated against them, pretending that because their age is different, their value is different. Is this not precisely the kind of false assessment of others that Christ continually challenges in the Gospels?

We who follow Christ need to be busy about unmaking distinctions between the born and the preborn. Physically, the distinctions are fewer than people imagine. In regard to this value, there are no distinctions at all. "See that you never despise one of these little ones" (Mt. 18:10).