Build Bridges-Not Walls
Pondering on the Christchurch Attack and Cranes

REFLECTION WHAT’S IN A CRANE? By Fr Kevin Bates SM

Nearly four days in an eighth floor hospital room last week, gave me the opportunity to watch a giant crane go about its business on the neighbouring building site. While from time to time I’ve looked at these monsters and wondered how they work, they’ve never really been centre-stage for me. Over these days the crane stimulated my curiosity as it performed its duties during the day, and its lights provided a certain companionship during the long hospital nights.
A couple of lazy hours’ Googling then opened up for me the world of the crane. I learnt about how they’re built, how they survive the weather, how the crane drivers get to work, survive and even go to the loo!
Then I got to thinking about the people in our parish here, and how they often tell you the name of the job they do and beyond that, very little. How little we know about the lives and occupations of those around us who each contribute to the tapestry of our lives in ways we don’t see.
While it’s not possible for us to enter the world of everyone we know at depth, it’s well worth our while to be open to discoveries that may inform and enrich us. We can easily settle down into our own little bubble and satisfy ourselves with the thought that what I already know and experience is quite enough for me.
In addition to the knowledge and information we’re missing, there can grow amongst us a wariness and even suspicion of each other’s differences. We see the extreme extensions of this in racist and xenophobic rhetoric that has been on display in recent days.
Last Sunday evening, wanting to make some gesture of solidarity with the victims of the Christchurch shootings, I visited the mosque at Marsden Park in Sydney’s west. I happened in on a hastily arranged gathering of some 500 people who were there to reflect and pray for the people of Christchurch.
Speakers from the Moslem, Jewish, and Catholic communities shared their reflections along with local politicians, each of them crying out for a peace that transcends all differences. I received gentle, warm hospitality and sitting among a marvellous array of hatted heads, I was at one with the people gathered there.
As we gaze out windows and see worlds beyond our own, it’s worth looking into our heart to observe our response. My curiosity may be aroused to the point where I will explore this unknown world. My compassion may lead me to enter this world, even if for a moment. My fear may well hold me back from engagement altogether.
In a world that is punctuated by terror and fear, our holding back is very understandable. In a world whose every experience holds the potential for God-given learnings, our holding back may diminish all of us.
Central to the life and mission of Jesus was his readiness to enter worlds he had not previously known. His engagement with women especially was shockingly counter-cultural to the people of his day.
Notable among these were his interactions with the woman at the well and the woman at Simon’s house, known to her fellow citizens as “a sinner in the town.”
He visits and dines with the tax-collector Zaccheus, allows himself to be badgered by the persistent Samaritan woman, to be touched by the haemorrhaging Syro-Phoenecian woman and greets with compassion the robber dying on the cross beside him.
Last week’s shootings in Christchurch and some of the subsequent extremist rhetoric, alerts us to this crucially important aspect of our Christian mission. We are to build bridges, not walls. We seek to learn the truth of other’s stories, to walk with them, to respect them and to allow them to enrich our own truth.
As you see the cranes around town going about their work this week, let them remind you of something beyond ourselves.
Father Kevin




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