We tend to think of our public holidays as little more than opportunities to relax and perhaps go to the beaches, and indeed this is important for our overall well-being. However, the significance of the occasions may be lost.
We have just celebrated our 60th anniversary of independence and this weekend we celebrate our 46th anniversary as a republic. Beyond rest and relaxation, we need to use this period as a time for reflection and anticipation, for looking back and looking forward.
When we examine our past however, we need to do so with fresh eyes, with discernment. In the hustle and bustle of our daily lives, dealing with the problems which crop up every day, our perspective narrows.
We see less of the world around us. Within the circles of family, friends, and co-workers, we automatically and unconsciously adopt ways of looking and seeing which protect our mental equilibrium, but at the same time limit who and what we in fact see.
This ‘blindness’ is illustrated in the parable of Lazarus and the rich man. The rich man is completely caught up in the whirlwind of making money and enjoying its material fruits. He is busy, very busy. He never actually ‘sees’ Lazarus on his doorstep in his perilous condition.
Somewhere at the back of his mind he knows that Lazarus is there, but he does not see him as another human being in desperate need of sustenance and help.
It may be that Lazarus is a person of different ethnicity or religion. It may be that the rich man has been taught to believe that people in Lazarus’ condition are ‘lazy’ or deserve to be as they are or are paying the price for a sinful life.
The rich man ends up in the netherworld, not because he was wealthy, but because he did not and could not love a neighbour, whom he simply never saw!
It took his death for the rich man to ‘see’ Lazarus.
Sometimes our protective bubbles are burst by a cancer diagnosis, a home invasion by gun-wielding bandits, or the death of a family member or close friend. But as the parable reminds us, we may not be persuaded to change even if someone should rise from the dead!
In this period between our national anniversaries, we need to step back and reflect on what and whom we are not seeing: the plight of the homeless, the sorrow of those who have lost loved ones to crime or to Covid, the anger of those stranded in rural areas by collapsed roads or no water, or the stress of those charged with the care of our children, our elderly, and the mentally ill.
There are Lazaruses all around us that we need to see.
Beyond overcoming our spiritual blindness, we need to reflect on and overcome our own numbness, the many ways in which we anesthetise ourselves so that we remain unaffected and distant from the plight of our nation’s Lazaruses.
It is only by overcoming that numbness that we will be motivated to do something, even if it is just to collect the scraps from our tables to feed the hungry, to carve out time to mentor a young person, or to mobilise our communities.
Our reflection should also be prayerful so that our minds and hearts are lifted and directed in the best ways possible, so that His Resurrection becomes our daily resurrection.
Happy Republic Day!