By Deacon John De Gano
Question: If a picture is worth a thousand words… And a tweet uses only 280 characters, then what good can come from these five or six words?
Answer: On February 19, 1968, they ushered in 50 years’ worth of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood wisdom on PBS stations across the country. Through memorable characters like King Friday XIII, Daniel Striped Tiger, Lady Aberlin and all the rest of the residents of the Neighborhood of Make-Believe, viewers learned to get along in spite of differences of opinion, cultures, etc.
A worthy tribute to the gentle spirit that was Fred Rogers, and a question that has persistently challenged mankind for roughly the last 2,000 years.
Who is My Neighbor?
That is the question Jesus asked the Pharisee after telling the crowd the story of the Good Samaritan.
The Pharisee, blinded by his own prejudices, would not even consider that a Samaritan (any Samaritan!) could be anything more than a despised lower-than-low creature. Forced to respond, he cagily replied, ‘the one who took pity on the man?’
Jesus’ point was made. Everyone is neighbor; and brother and sister; and child of God.
If only we would heed his words and live it out…
Yet, here we are in the year 2018 and villain-ization/victimization continues against those who are ‘unlike’ us. The poor, the marginalized and the stranger at our door – the immigrant, documented or not, DACA students or not, who desire a better life here than the one they had somewhere else.
The State of California adopted SB 54 as a way to protect the undocumented from being harassed by local law enforcement, simply for living in this country without federal immigration documentation.
The merits of our current immigration laws (which most in-the-know say are broken) can and should be argued in Congress, where they can be fixed. This would be much better than the current scenario of instilling fear of separation in families caught up in the political logjam as parents and relatives are detained, arrested and deported for simply being undocumented. Families are disrupted, savings are depleted and children suffer as a result of uncertainty.
Who is my brother or sister?
Jesus answered, “Anyone who does the will of God.”
As Catholics living in the United States, we are preparing for the mid-term elections this November and are reminded that we are called to be Faithful Citizens, to pay taxes, vote and, if need be, to defend our country.
Implicit in being faithful is to set aside our personal opinions and emotions and reflect Jesus’ message of hope and healing. After all, he died so we might be forgiven our trespasses. Shouldn’t we be just as willing to offer up a little of our comfort so that those who live in fear may find hope in the God who created us?
Mr. Rodgers thought so. And he believed (like Jesus) that we could each make a difference in the world.
“You always make each day a special day. You know how: By just being yourself. There’s only one person in the whole world that’s like you, and that’s you. And people can like you just exactly the way you are.”
God asks us to be our best selves; to be life-giving; to say no to racism in all its ugly forms; to affirm the dignity of every human being; and to speak up for those who are unable to speak for themselves, always remembering to show preferential option for the poor and vulnerable.
These concepts are found in the Bible and fleshed out in Catholic Social Teaching (CST). It would do all of us well to live them out—The Good News of Jesus Christ—by word, example and by our actions... And not wait for the other person to do it for us. Let us be neighbors and friends together in truth and not only in make-believe.
John De Gano is a deacon at St. Catherine of Alexandria parish in Riverside.