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July 11, 2016

Almost essential to the proper nurturing of young children is a strong, supportive family. As children grow older, their need for community does not disappear, but expands. "It takes a village to raise a child," it is commonly said. Indeed, it does take a family, and it does take a village or a neighbourhood.

Many children have grown to have outstanding lives without such roots, but they have often triumphed in spite of their background, not because of it.

Still, maturity means moving beyond the small world of family, friends and neighbours. You don't turn your back on them, but you join a wider world, a world that ultimately is the whole world.

This is not pop psychology but the Gospel. Jesus' greatest opposition came from those who wanted to keep their world small. They wanted a sharp divide between Jews and Gentiles, the pure and impure. The most hated of all were those from neighbouring Samaria, Jewish people who had sullied their roots through intermarriage with conquering peoples and who had dared to build their own temple in contravention of Jewish law.

Jesus told stories in which a despised Samaritan was the hero, the person of virtue while the Jews in the story fell short. He consorted with others who were considered impure or "other" - tax collectors, prostitutes and sinners. In Luke's Gospel especially are found parables and statements of reversal - "Some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last" (13.30).

For St. Paul, the struggle was similar. He had to convince the other apostles that the Gospel was meant for all humanity. The markers of what it meant to be a Jew - such as circumcision and the observance of food laws - were secondary to faith in the risen Lord. The Gospel has a universal horizon because it is not restricted to one group.

Yet, today, increasing numbers want to exclude outsiders, rather than to reach out to all and to include all in the earthly, as well as heavenly, banquet. Even the Christian faith is sometimes used as a boundary marker to exclude Muslims, for example.

The recent British referendum and the rise of Trumpism in the U.S. has shone a mirror on disturbing aspects of Western society.

Globalization has brought a counter-reaction of insularity, xenophobia and even violence against minorities. One may argue against the way globalization has proceeded; an economic globalization which benefits the rich and robs the poor is itself contrary to the Gospel.

However, the roots of globalization lie in the Gospel. It was Jesus, St. Paul and the Church who gave the world the vision and hope of a universal brotherhood and sisterhood, the hope that we might all be one body.

The Christian task has never been one of erecting walls and retreating into insularity, but of healing the sick, setting the oppressed free and proclaiming the year of the Lord's favour. Our call is to build more and more bridges, until finally the whole world is one.