As I write this we are into the third week of the protests at Parliament, which are affecting the streets and precincts of Parliament, the Court Houses, the Anglican and Catholic precincts, St Mary’s College, Sacred Heart Cathedral School, the National Library, private businesses and residents. The lives of many people have been disrupted and inconvenienced because of these protests. We have heard stories of school children and the public being abused and insulted. Some staff at the Catholic Centre on Hill St – located across the road from Parliament – have been the recipients of abuse and insults. It has not been a pleasant place to be over the last couple
However, while all that was happening around us, we have had last Sunday’s Gospel [20 February] to reflect on and pray with. As I read the Gospel and prepared for Sunday, my first thought was how this Gospel applies to those protesters who have been displaying some extreme behaviours. The Gospel for that Sunday was Luke 6:27-38.
Jesus said to his disciples: ‘To you who hear I say, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. To the person who strikes you on one cheek, offer the other one as well, and from the person who takes your cloak, do not withhold even your tunic. Give to everyone who asks of you, and from the one who takes what is yours do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you. For if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do the same. If you lend money to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, and get back the same amount. But rather, love your enemies and do good to them, and lend expecting nothing back; then your reward will be great and you will be children of the Most High, for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
‘Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven. Give, and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.’
My first thoughts were that what Jesus asks of us is not easy. Loving one’s ‘enemies’ is asking a lot, but these protesters were not my enemies. They were a real nuisance and making a lot of noise, but not my enemies! Blessing them and praying for them might be fine for some, but it seemed to be going too far when our streets were occupied and the nights raucous. Asking for a blow on the second cheek while the first is still twinging with pain was hard to think about. Not to try to take back what was taken from us – our streets, the ability to walk through Parliament’s grounds, and enjoying peaceful evenings and nights – seems a very foolish approach. Yet it was Christ who made all these demands.
Therefore, it was good for me to stop and think about what demands Jesus was asking of me. To love our enemies does not mean we must throw our arms about them every time we meet them – the protesters would not have let me do that anyway! What it meant for me was to try to do everything in my power to rid my mind of any animosity and try to see the good in all the people who are protesting. Not judging and condemning comes under this heading. I realised I need to see in others that they too are the daughters and sons of God. Although, it was hard to admit that God sees goodness in those creating such a disturbance.
Another good point for me to bear in mind as I have been living and working day and night alongside the protest, is that most of the protesters have had no inclination to harm me or any part of our property, and they were not waiting for the chance to pounce on me.
That Sunday’s Gospel made me think very carefully and has helped me to deal with the challenges of these weeks. The last lines of that Gospel are for me to apply to every situation in life.
Police face Covid-mandate protesters outside the Catholic Centre entrance on Hill St, Wellington, 22 February. Police have since put concrete blocks on the road outside the Catholic Centre, to contain the protest area and prevent vehicle access along Hill St. The occupation of Parliament grounds and surrounding streets and properties has impacted residents, businesses, offices, schools and local iwi. Security personnel are on site at St Mary’s College, Sacred Heart primary school, and the Catholic Centre. St Mary’s College and the Catholic Centre are requiring students and staff to operate from home. Photo: Cardinal John Dew