FROM “BEING WITH” TO “BEING FOR”: THE VALUE OF A CARING PRESENCE

Jun 01, 2019

Bishop Paulinus Ezeokafor

Message of HIS LORDSHIP MOST REV. PAULINUS C. EZEOKAFOR for the 2019 World Communications Day


Pope Francis uses his 2019 World Communication message to remind us how interconnected we are, using the analogy of the web and the Internet. At the centre of his message is our belongingness to one another (Eph. 4:25). In the beautiful analogy in I Cor. 12, St Paul uses the human body to buttress this. This realization should help us to tighten some lose knots in the love and fraternity among ourselves both as sharers of the same faith as Christians and as sharers of common humanity. It should make us not just understand one another better, but more importantly, to realize how the being of each person, without denying the reality of our individuality, flows into that of others.

I want to propose to us for reflection, the responsibility of care arising from this interconnectedness of ours. Africans ground this in their philosophical aphorism – “I am because we are” – which serves as an antidote against the poison of individualism and selfishness that seem to have been the new normal in our present-day society. From the theological point of view, God never made us from the beginning to be isolated monads, but beings in relationship with Him and with one another. God's observation that it was not good for Adam to be alone and His creation of Eve from the rib of Adam points irreversibly to this; then follows the joy of Adam in the statement, “This at last is the bone of my bone and the flesh of my flesh” (Gen. 2:23).

Our interconnectedness imposes on us the inescapable responsibility of caring presence for one another. Our presence to one another should no longer be neutral, unconcerned, the kind of presence I would refer to as just “being with.” We may be with another without seeing him or her as a brother or sister that needs our care, as one whose being irresistibly beckons on us for a caring attention. Christian presence must transcend this. Our presence must be an active one, “presence for.” It must be driven by positive considerations. Our presence must communicate hope, assurance, reinforce quality care, promote equality, justice, and fairness in our society. Our presence must communicate love. It must be for an uplifting purpose. Just as Jesus' presence among us means liberation for the downtrodden, care for the poor, and deliverance from all forms of bondages, so also should a Christian's presence to another be a happy, loving, and caring presence that adds value to another.

In the family, parents should learn to be present to and for their children. Their presence must be such that communicates powerfully the strong filial bond between them and their children. They must learn to spend themselves, their time, energy, money, creativity, and any available resources at their disposal for the good of their children. Children should also learn how to communicate reciprocally their oneness to their parents through their own loving presence, especially when senility sets in due to ageing. They must spend themselves for their parents. Brothers, sisters, friends, school mates, work colleagues, etc., should be able to be present to one another for the good of one another, not just for the self.

A true Christian cannot stand the cry of the afflicted without giving his or her attention, or stand injustice and oppression without intervening. Our universities are littered with poor students suffering under the burden of some wicked lecturers who abuse them physically, psychologically, and sexually. Our homes are populated by women who are oppressed, tortured, and abused by their husbands, and in some cases men by their wives. Some children are even given subhuman treatment by their parents. In the face of all these, what do we do?

In the business environment, many businesses have been driven underground by lack of trust, sheer wickedness, opportunism, greed, and love of money. Some have killed and continued to kill their fellow human beings in Nigeria out of selfish interests and dangerous ideologies. Those suffering under these yokes are constantly in tears before the Lord. Some families and individuals are constantly being victimized because they stand by the side of truth. They cry everyday for justice. In the face of all these, what do we do?

Dear brothers and sisters, we must communicate our oneness by being for one another, for we belong to a common humanity in God. The moment we begin to make our presence to others sacramental, a sign of God's presence for them, only then would we have been faithful to our calling as Christians. Let us communicate love, share love, live love, and realize the invaluable worth of caring presence.

Most Rev. Paulinus C. Ezeokafor
Bishop of Awka


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