Being there for my neighbour
March is usually my favourite month. It's when my birthday is; also Mothering Sunday, International Women's Day, Lent and often Easter (although not this year). Spring is starting to bloom and there are so many other things to celebrate.
But this year feels different, as instead there seem far more things to be saddened and frightened by: presidential executive orders reducing people's freedom, the UK Government's decision to stop taking unaccompanied child refugees from Europe, bombs going off across the world, water shortages in Mexico City and India, and so many other issues.
While these make March seem difficult to celebrate this year, I believe the lectionary readings for this month, and the song 'When I needed a neighbour, were you there?' that guides Christian Aid's Lent journey this year, direct us, not to be saddened or frightened, but rather to push ourselves towards action.
‘We are called to follow Jesus and to love our neighbours as ourselves, no matter what.'
As Christians, even in the depth of fear or despair we are called to follow Jesus and to love our neighbours as ourselves, no matter what.
When Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman, he broke all sorts of societal rules because as a Jew he was not expected to speak to someone like her, an apparently 'promiscuous' woman who was considered a foreigner.
However, these rules were not important enough to him to stop Jesus from encountering and loving those from outside of his own circle. Similarly, in John's gospel when he heals the blind man, Jesus is breaking Jewish law, as through healing he is working on the Sabbath.
In this case it appears that Jesus saw a person in need and believed that helping them was more important than the law. When questioned, he was angry that anyone would think that the law should stop them from fully loving their neighbour.
While I am not suggesting that these passages ask us to become lawbreakers, I do believe that they ask us to reflect upon things which restrict our ability to fulfil Jesus' command to love our neighbours as ourselves.
The hymn 'When I needed a neighbour, were you there?' always makes me reflect on where my neighbours are today, who are calling out to me, 'will you be there?'
This March, I see them in those affected by the executive orders made by President Trump, in the child refugees stranded in Europe, in those fleeing from conflict in South Sudan and in communities still struggling to rebuild their lives in Nepal.
I see my neighbour in all the things that strike fear and sadness, rather than celebration, into me this March, and I am angry because I do not know how to be there, angry because I do not know what action I am supposed to take, angry because those who should do not appear to be taking the most caring action for those in desperate need.
Anger can be dangerous if it is not fuelled by love. But when it is, it can be righteous. This March, I believe that Jesus is calling us to righteous anger. But what does that mean in regards to answering the call of 'will you be there, and how?'
To me, when feeling frightened or saddened by the world, it means listening to my anger and acting.
It means acknowledging that I do not always know how to answer the call and to be there. But in many circumstances, Christian Aid and their partners do. And so it means supporting, campaigning and praying for them.
Finally, it also means going out of my way and maybe sometimes breaking a few rules just as Jesus did, in order to fully love as he called me to. But that's just me. This March, and this Lent, how will you be there?
This month's reflection is written by Amelia Sutcliffe, a former intern with Christian Aid who is now studying for a Master of Sacred Theology degree at Union Theological Seminary, New York.
Read our prayers for this month.
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