(The Nationalist, 26 January 2001)
The Gospel tells us that Mary, the mother of Jesus, went into the hill country to be with her cousin, Elizabeth who, like her, was expecting a child. It was an example of one woman offering another practical help in a time of need. A little while earlier in the same Gospel, we are told that Mary answered the angel’s call to her from God, asking her to become the mother of the Son of the Most High. She had answered, ‘Let it be done to me according to your word.’ In other words, ‘I will do what God asks of me.’
Mary combined the love of God and the love of neighbour, and that’s the way it has to be. We cannot see God, but we can see people. Our love for people is a barometer of our love of God. It tells us if it is real.
We are asked to be kind to people. What does that mean? To be kind means to will and to do what is for the good of the other. That’s not the same as being nice to them, or doing what they want. You can read the Gospels from start to finish and you won’t find Jesus saying that we should be nice to people. It’s not there. Jesus challenged injustice, spoke the truth and upset a lot of apple-carts. If he comforted the afflicted, he also afflicted the comfortable.
To will and to do what is for the good of the other may mean saying no rather than yes. An alcoholic who asks for money wants it for drink. It is not being kind to give it to him. Being ‘nice’ by giving him money or a bottle may, in fact, be an act of contempt by which we wash our hands and get rid of him. Or to turn a blind eye or a deaf ear when a child does something wrong, instead of saying, ‘That’s wrong; you shouldn’t do it’ is not being kind. It betrays the child. Being ‘nice’ in that way may smooth over the cracks, keep up appearances and make us Mr. or Ms. Popular but it does not do people justice. It sells them short.
Be kind. Think of the other and put their good first. It is the short cut to heaven. It is easy to understand but demanding to do.