The first half of 2021 has passed us by, with many pleasant and unpleasant events having taken place during this unprecedented pandemic. We pray and hope for the best in the second half of the year, as we continue to move forward in cautiousness.
The Holy Father, Pope Francis’s prayer intention for the month of July 2021 is on Social Friendship. He invites us to pray for this intention and at the same time to be more “courageous and passionate architects of dialogue and friendship” in the midst of social conflicts, economic downturns and political crises. His intention is to solve or avoid conflicts that cause constant division and social enmities in so many relationships which exist within our families, amongst individuals and in society at large. He yearns for all of us to focus on bridging our differences through dialogue and building up our friendships as a “path to seeing reality in a new way, so we can live with passion, the challenges we face in constructing the common good” with one another.
Pope Francis said, “We come from distant lands; we have different traditions, skin colour, languages and social backgrounds; we think differently and we celebrate our faith in a variety of rites. None of this makes us enemies; instead, it is one of our greatest riches,” (Homily, 19 November 2016). His saying reminds me about the variety friends that I have gained over the years. They are of various races, cultures, beliefs, faiths, practise different traditions and speak different languages. It saddens me to say that I have lost five close childhood friends since. May the Lord grant them eternal rest. I have also lost contact with school friends for years, but I do keep in touch with my college friends and we do communicate with each other via social media. Ever since I joined the seminary in 1995, and after being ordained a priest, I developed friendships with a different group of people, mainly from the circle of priests and parishioners.
Many of us have friendships which has somehow lasted since our childhood and school days. Some of us find camaraderie in friendships with colleagues, neighbours and other people we meet in our daily lives. Some friends have moved overseas, but we somehow find ways to keep in touch with them through social media, as their friendship means something to us. Wherever they are, whoever they are, we are still in contact with them. Besides our family members, we need friends to talk to, to listen, to understand or to be companions on our journey of life – in good, as well as difficult times.
Pope Francis, in his encyclical on “Fratelli Tutti” (Fraternity and Social Friendship, October 2020) has dedicated chapter six to “Dialogue and Friendship in Society.” He pointed out that “giving priority to dialogue means abandoning the logic of polarisation and replacing it with respect, without wanting to destroy others.” I believe we have developed a variety of richness in building up friendships through dialogue with one another, even though we have differences and interests. We have to take every opportunity in building up healthy relationships, rather than be hostile or pose as threats to others. We don’t want to lose our friends or to have enemies around us. Jesus says, “No one can have greater love than to lay down his life for his friends,” (John 15: 13).
Early this week we heard about the White Flag (Bendera Putih) campaign. It is a noble and good spirit of outreach, in helping those who are not able to meet the basic food needs of their family during this difficult times. In this month of July, let’s keep a look out for those in need in our neighbourhood – families and friends who are in need of basic necessities and help, in order to assist them during this difficult period. It is time for us to work for the common good of our community as we rebuild our nation through fraternity, dialogue and social friendship.
Rev Fr. George Packiasamy