Reflections 21st June 2020

A Reflection for the 12th Sunday of Ordinary Time

MT 10: 26-33 (

The late Indian priest, Anthony De Mello SJ, said that the opposite of love was not hate but fear. This made me stop and think: could it be true? As I thought about it, I realised that very often the thing that stopped me from doing what I really wanted in my heart to do, from doing what was right and fair, from acting out of compassion and mercy or from loving, was fear. I am often afraid of what others will think or say about me - ultimately, afraid of letting go and not being in control.

The phrase ‘Do not be afraid’ is one of the most repeated phrases in the bible. And Jesus says it again in the Gospel today. And he says it, I think, because fear, while at certain stages of our lives an important response for self-protection, is - in the end, if not faced - debilitating. It damages both the fearful person and those around him / her. It prevents one from reaching his / her fullest potential, from being the very best that one can be.

The people I work with and for in Spirasi are victims of torture. They have experienced unimaginable pain and fear. Many have been forced to say and do shocking things as a result of torture and the fear and threat of torture. They may have betrayed loved ones, inflicted torture on others, killed and maimed, and demeaned themselves or others in the basest ways. And as they take the first tentative steps on the road to recovery, one of the hardest challenges they face is forgiving themselves.  They feel intense shame both for what was done to them and for how they responded.  And yet, with the love of family and community, with patient and expert care given by different professions, those who are torture-victims can begin the long journey towards healing. They can begin to trust and overcome the fear that they are unforgivable.

If we are honest, we can admit that we sometimes too give in to fear in our lives. Even if we have never had to face the extremes of being tortured, we have, nevertheless, said and done things out of fear that have damaged ourselves and others. The call in the Gospel today, it seems to me, is to watch out for fear in our lives, become aware and try not to let it be the dominant force in our decision-making. And when we fail to do so, as sometimes happens, to learn from the experience, accept the forgiveness on offer and forgive ourselves.

We can then, with God’s help, get up and try again.

Mr. Rory Halpin - Rory is the Executive Director of Spirasi. Set-up by the Spiritans in the late 1990s, Spirasi supports victims of torture to re-build their lives in Ireland. The vast majority of victims are either asylum-seekers or refugees.