In a weaving workshop for people living with disabilities in the UK, Samantha stopped work one morning and asked no one in particular, ‘Why are we here?’
When Tom, the one responsible for the group replied, ‘to weave these mats for sale so that we can be a bit self-reliant’, Samantha was not satisfied. ‘Yes, but why? Why are we here?’ After another attempt at a response, Tom became weary of the conversation and said, ‘Let’s all break for coffee.’
Samantha was searching for answers. Handicapped or not, she wanted to know the purpose of life. Tom wasn’t interested in really hearing her question. I am reminded of this in reading this week’s Tablet which records racism in the UK and even in the Church. A person interviewed said,
I think the main problem is that the majority of people just don’t get it. I believe that to really understand someone’s suffering, you have to experience something of their pain. And I am not sure that many white people ever truly ‘get’ racism and understand what it feels like to be discriminated against simply because it is not part of the daily reality of their lives. They don’t experience, as we do, the horrendous racial abuse, bullying, violence, harassment, discrimination, racial profiling and much, much more – all because of the colour of our skin. When we try to discuss these subjects, our perspectives are repeatedly ignored or, worse, even gaslighted. We’re told it’s not a major issue and we should get over it. We’re told not ‘to play the race card’.
Many people, not just in the UK, are not really interested in ‘hearing the question’. In fact, they don’t like hearing any question that probes the world view they assume. If people express their hurt, they are told to ‘get over it’.
We have a psalm sandwich in this week’s Sunday readings; psalm 23 (The Lord is my Shepherd) comes between two other passages which say, ‘They are like sheep without a shepherd’. People are aware, for example, of global warming and Covid 19 but few stop to ask why are they happening? We know, or we have a good idea, of the scientific reasons. But, like Samantha, we still have to ask, ‘why they are happening?’ Science does not tell us why human beings prefer ‘not to know’ and remain content to be ignorant rather than do the demanding work curiosity entails. Curiosity is one of the greatest virtues because it leads to knowledge and wisdom. Ultimately it leads us to know there is a good shepherd at work in our world, moulding ‘a new heaven and a new earth’. But the shepherd needs us to bleat a little so as to be helped. Otherwise we will continue to be ‘lost sheep’.
18 July 2021 Sunday 16B Jer 23:1-6 Eph 2:13-18 Mk6:30-34