Reach out in friendship – Daily Prayer

All people are precious in God’s eyes and deserve respect, even those with whom we disagree.

Pope Francis is often faced with headwinds with the causes he supports and when reading the gospel. Nations and people with much more power than he did often act entirely against his advice. He is a man who is often in tension with his age.

This conflict between Pope Francis’ teaching and the way the world works is also evident in his intention for July. He calls for social friendship in all conflict situations, be it within the Catholic Church, between nations, between different social groups and between companies and their employees. Social friendship challenges us not to see people who oppose our ideas and have interests that conflict with ours as enemies to be overcome. Rather, we should see them as our potential partners in building a better and more respectful society.

This appeal contradicts many trends in Australia and the world. For example, if we look at Australia’s relations with China, we can clearly see a nation that has little respect for human rights, is self-confident in its external relations, has a pronounced history of exploitation and emancipation and is also an economic competitor as a benefactor. Our relationship should reflect all of these aspects. Within a few years, China and its representatives are seen as enemies with whom relations are broken off and any rapprochement is to be rejected. In this process of hostility, people of Chinese descent in Australia are increasingly noticing racial abuse and discrimination. We are clearly on a path, not towards social friendship, but towards mutual social hostility.

This is just one example of social friendship rejection. We can also see it in the often bitter conflicts between people with different views about gender, race and sexuality. In the United States too, even Catholics with different views seem to have difficulty speaking to one another.

In such a world, as Pope Francis implies in his intentions, it can take a lot of courage to reach people with whom we disagree. We are accused of abandoning our side, deceiving our adversaries who seek to weaken our truthfulness, and overlooking the intellectual or moral depravity of those with whom we grapple. We are seen as weak links in the army of the righteous.

Social friendship begins in a completely different place. In all of our relationships, we are urged not to look at their ideas or other people’s badges first. It looks first in the eyes of the people we meet and sees them as people like ourselves. They are precious in God’s eyes and deserve respect. We want to work with them respectfully so that we can find common ground to agree on and thus lay the foundations for further agreements. In the words of Pope Francis, we seek dialogue and try to understand where the people come from, with whom we differ. In doing so, we will be open to rethink our own prejudices and thus refine our understanding of the truth.

Pope Francis also speaks of becoming architects of dialogue and friendship. We don’t employ architects who leave our home unchanged. Your job is to reschedule the house so that it better suits our ideas.

In social friendship, the plan is to reach out to people with whom we differ so that together we can find a better way through our differences.

Fr. Andrew Hamilton SJ is an editorial advisor to Jesuit Communications

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