The Gospel of Luke recounts the healing performed by Jesus on a woman who, for eighteen years, had suffered from an ailment which left her bent double (Luke 13:10-17). At one point, Jesus says that the woman had been “held bound” in this condition by the power of evil.
Jesus came to “set the captive free” (Luke 4:18), and when he raised Lazarus from the dead, he commanded, “Unbind him! Let him go free!” (John 11:44). That healed woman, who had spent eighteen years with her face to the ground, was able to stand up straight and glorify God. She could once again hold her head high and look upwards and outwards. The bondage was gone.
When you consider the current situation in the Holy Land, in Ukraine and Russia and elsewhere on the planet, other bonds appear to be holding individuals and entire populations in thrall to evil. It is so easy to bind others into categories and classifications of different sorts. You can call it labelling, pigeon-holing, strait-jacketing or something else, but in the end it amounts to paralyzing the other, and even to demonizing them.
It would be facile and irresponsible to reduce the complexities in the conflicts mentioned to simplistic formulae. But there’s no question that, between sworn enemies, whatever the reasons for the enmity, there can be the temptation to reduce people, even an entire people, to a stereotype. It helps to justify the hatred and the actions which proceed from it.
The curious thing is that when we fit others into caricatures of who they really are it is ourselves that we mock the most. The perspective we adopt on others more often than not reveals our own mind and heart. If I am truly free, I will want the true freedom of others. If I hard-cast the other, it says a great deal about me.
The bonds of prejudice and vengeance currently causing so much unspeakable suffering can be loosened, despite the seemingly impossible odds. Good people of all faiths and none can and must join forces and lobby the powers that be to untie the complex knots of centuries of strife. But first, and to be coherent, we have to start with ourselves. In our own hearts we need to identify honestly the bonds which prevent us from standing up straight and stretching out our arms to welcome and embrace.Mgr. Peter Magee