Grace to you!
Providentially, in the USA today, we remember Martin Luther King Jr., a man whose legacy for equal rights, freedoms and opportunities for all, resounds. He identified with the struggles of minorities and blacks. He had a deep connection with the reality of the struggles. He saw racism and discrimination for what they are—abominable. His passionate appeals for the application of human rights to all flowed, in part, from his connections with real people and their struggles and his solid appreciation of the nature of the human person, created in the image and likeness of God. If he was passionate, it was, in part, because he saw, judged and could, therefore, effectively act.
Experience of some realities about life tends to change our perspectives. An example is the experience of living in the inner city. “Experience is the best teacher.”
No matter how we may have seen the story on television, or read it on blogs, living in the inner city has a special feel to it. In philosophy, they say, knowledge about is quite different from knowledge of. One may have so much knowledge about something, but knowledge of that thing has a powerful emotion to it.
During a Q&A session at a seminar where I was a guest speaker, one man made a contribution that was insightful and effective. His view was that we might say so many things about overcoming addiction; hardly shall we come to the heart of the matter, unless we’ve had experience of real people who’ve suffered from addiction. They could be our loved ones, our friends, our parents or us. First hand experience with addicts changes the dynamics.
Without in any way limiting knowledge to only what we can experience (there are many things we know without experience), the real personal experience of something has a special connection to it. It resonates differently.
We can argue all we want about a girl who acts strange; we can’t fathom her behavior unless we tried to understand her, her background, upbringing, etc. Such knowledge tends to soften our hearts and makes us more sympathetic and empathetic.
Reflecting on the Letter to the Hebrews (5:1-10), a classical biblical story that shows how Jesus is the Eternal High priest who is fit to be our Intercessor, I appreciate why the inspired writer has to show us that Jesus had to assume our nature so as to, humanly speaking, adequately identify with us. He didn’t need to follow that route since he is God, but he chose to do so. Lesson: We, too, have to identify with the weak and the vulnerable in our midst.
To be an effective intercessor for others, we must be their genuine empathizers. To be their genuine empathizers, we must understand, in some ways, or try to understand where they are coming from and what are their struggles. This, far from making us superior or their judge, makes us play the role of priesthood—offering, intercessor and sacrifice—for them.
Look at the crucifix and, would you please tell me what you see? I see one who is wounded so we can be healed; one who is pierced so we can be whole; one who groans so we can be consoled and, one abandoned so we can be reconciled and justified. I see an intercessor par excellence.
I pray God to make us passionate and empathetic intercessors for others. Amen
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
Fr. Maurice Emelu, Ph.D.
Father Maurice provides a daily blog of reflections based on the bible readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration and developing your own thoughts. It may also be helpful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.