Overcoming Our Indifference and Fear

Untitled-1Window in the La Salette Shrine Church in
Salmata, Italy
At La Salette our Weeping Mother sensed fear in the two children and said, “Come near, my children. Do not be afraid.”

When we reflect on getting involved in some aspects of life, in challenging relationships, in reaching out to those in need, we may experience hesitation, fear or even indifference. These tendencies are countered by the second of the two great commandments: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31). Responding to this invitation to love seems to me incompatible with any tendency to indifference.

The tendency to attempt to be indifferent is a refusal to be affected by another person, event, situation, or almost anything. It seems to spring from a yearning to be neutral or perhaps to avoid our fear of others, or can even come from a pure lack of interest. It can also result from an accumulation of worries, or wanting to avoid any emotional reactions or encounters.


What Does Jesus Say?

At the heart of the storm, while his companions were panicking, Jesus remained asleep! Is this indifference? Certainly not! He sleeps with confidence in their expertise as sailors.

When the shepherd of the parable of the lost sheep leaves his flock to rescue one sheep, is this indifference for the ninety-nine others? Certainly not! It is rather an expression of his passionate concern for the lost and helpless sheep that he takes time away from his flock to go looking for him.

In the parable of the Good Samaritan on the way to Jericho, the priest and the Levite pass by, perhaps pulled away from involvement by their insistence of the importance of their own need for purity, an expression of their Jewish faith. They chose not to “defile themselves” with their involvement with the injured, abandoned Samaritan, thus preventing them from practicing their religion.

The Samaritan tells us who Jesus is: his inner freedom allows him to respond freely to the needs of a fellow human being. Moved with compassion, the Samaritan draws closer to assist the injured man. He cares for his wounds, and loads him on his own donkey, leading him to an inn. Then with confidence, he solicits the innkeeper to care for whatever needs the stranger has.


"Love Your Neighbor as Yourself"

And we, how do we discern situations involving others in need? How do we respond?

Untitled-2The Good SamaritanThe remarkable judgment of Solomon’s listening heart can enlighten us on what constitutes the dynamism of a properly judicious discernment? This episode in the Book of Kings (1 Kings 3:I6-28) is preceded by a dream in which God, in a close relationship with the young king, asks him any wish. Obviously, this happens in the secret heart of Solomon since there are no witnesses. Solomon responds be asking God: “Give your servant, therefore, a listening heart” (1 King 3:9).

But the next day, Solomon’s judgment will give his people the opportunity to see that this man is truly imbued with divine wisdom. He is therefore the king who is chosen by God to lead his people, Israel.

Untitled-3As baptized followers of the Lord, we too are anointed as kings, priests and prophets (Catechism of the Catholic Church [CCC], #785). This gives us the means to live up to our social responsibilities. In other words, we need not be afraid to commit our lives in service to each other and those in need. 

In his wisdom, Solomon asks for wisdom, thereby expressing that he is not afraid. He confidently knows that, under the eyes of God, every person is priceless and there is no room for indifference.


Charity is a Sign of Intelligence

The young king Solomon asks God for a listening heart. To the Hebrews of the time, the seat of intelligence is precisely in the heart. Intelligence involves listening to our heart in which God abides. God repeatedly reminds his people to listen to his wisdom: “Hear, O Israel...” (Deut 6:4). God guides our every discernment so that we may act with the true justice of God.

Untitled-4If we remain closed within ourselves, self-centered, satisfied with ourselves, indifferent, we will not be able to either listen or respond well to others in their distress. In vain we can remain self-centered and attempt to protect ourselves from the fear of being disturbed. Unfortunately even Solomon himself was not exempt from such a temptation.

Pope Francis, in officially proclaiming Dec. 8, 2015-2016 as an extraordinary Holy Year of Mercy, said that our life and action “is authentic and credible only when (we become) a convincing herald of mercy,” a mercy that “knows no bounds and extends to everyone without exception.”
(Reprinted with permission from the La Salette Publication, “Les Annales”, Nov-Dec, 2014, no. 243, pgs. 6-7)