THIRTIETH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
Tolerance Arises from Self-reflection
Empathy is Valuable in Understanding Others
First Reading (Jer 31:
7-9 God calls the remnant to return to their land
Second Reading (Heb 5: 1 -6) Jesus is the High Priest
Gospel (Mk 10: 46-52) Healing of the blind man from Jericho
Chinese Classics: -
“The Way of loyalty and consideration: Loyalty is to take responsibility
as far as one cant, and consideration is to forgive others as much as
-“To serve my father, as I would require my son to serve me: to this
I have not attained. To set the example in behaving towards a friend
as I would require him to behave towards me: to this I have not attained.
“He is able to deal gently with the ignorant
and wayward, since he himself is subject to weakness, and because of
this he must offer sacrifice for his own sins as well as for those of
the people.” (Heb 5: 2 – 3)
The Bible is the word God speaks to me here and now. It is not just
a story or something from afar, or abstract, or having no relation with
my life. Accordingly, while reading the Bible we need to ask: What is
God revealing to me today? What is God asking me to do now? What changes
in my life does God hope I will make? Today’s scripture gives a description
of Jesus' priesthood and also through writings of other priests gives
us some principles for human living.
In the Epistle to the Hebrews Paul finds it worthwhile to emphasize
these two points about the qualifications of the High Priest:
1) The High Priest must be a human person, chosen from among other human
beings. That is, he is neither an angel nor a spirit.
2) The Priest is appointed by God; he does not recommend himself nor
is he elected to his position by others.
The Catholic Church has the concept of a “call” which comes from God,
from above down to us. The church is not an ordinary social group. It
has doctrine, rules of behavior, rituals. Of course it also has ‘priests’
who preside over liturgical services.
Paul mentions something even more important. The High Priest is selected
from among the people, comes from the people and is truly human like
Since he is human, the priest is subject to human weakness. He must
offer sacrifice for the sins of the people, but also offer sacrifice
for his own sins. Although the task he undertakes is a sacred one, he
is neither stronger, better nor holier than others.
This self-awareness should lead to humility for those determined to
be the Catholic Church's priests, its leaders in life's struggles. They
must always be careful that in trying to save others, they fail to save
themselves. A Church of sinners makes demands on others, but even more
Paul goes further, implying that leaders in the Church should demand
perhaps even more of themselves, and be more lenient with others. Such
an attitude will help them to be gentle and understanding with those
who may be ignorant or who go astray, and enable them to be empathetic
with others. Empathy is the ability to put oneself in the others' shoes.
Those who are able to be empathetic can sympathize with others, and
then understands how to forgive.
.Confucius thought that we should follow “The Way of loyalty and consideration
for others.” For those of us with religious beliefs, we should pay even
more attention to this Way. “Loyalty is to take responsibility as far
as one can and consideration is to forgive others as much as possible.”
(1) This means that we
should expect more of ourselves but be less strict with others.
When on the China mainland, I would hear people sometimes censuring
priests for some undesirable action, I felt very uneasy. I did not wonder
whether the priest should or should not have done such a thing, I only
thought if I were in his position and situation I may have done the
same. How can I censure him, or be qualified to ‘throw the first stone,’
and condemn him for wrongdoing?
Chinese culture is characterized by ‘starting from oneself.’ This perspective
on life means to look inward to oneself and not demand from others what
one does not demand of oneself!
Confucius once thought that ‘in the way of the superior man (the perfect
gentleman) there are four things’ but he had not been able to attain
any one of them. “To serve my father as I would require my son to serve
me, to this I have not attained. To serve my prince as I would require
my minister to serve me, to this I have not attained. To serve my elder
brother as I would require my younger brother to serve me, this I have
not attained; to set the example in behaving to a friend as I would
require him to behave towards me, this I have not attained.” (Doctrine
of the Mean”, #13) (2)
Confucius was saying that if he demanded something of another person,
he himself must first fulfill that demand; but he felt he had not been
able to do this. That is to say, if he wanted his son to treat him well
yet was unable to treat his father in the same way!
Are we not the same? Instead of ‘forgiving with consideration’ we sometimes
act exactly opposite. We do not blame ourselves but censure others harshly.
We neither have sympathy for others, nor excuse or forgive them.
In psychology, there is a role playing exercise called ‘exchanging
roles.’ One puts oneself into a certain role and tries to imagine what
a person in such a situation would feel. The activity is very helpful
to us when we are trying to treat others with greater tolerance and