Who Is My Neighbour?

“Be attentive to the voice of the spirit in our community, in the Church and in the signs of the times” Constitutions 13

In our guiding documents and Constitutions, it is clear that as Canonesses we need to be rooted in the culture in which we find ourselves and to be open to the changing needs and circumstances of the world around us.

This call to be aware of, and respond to, the issues of our world and planet demands our attention. It is our imperative to respond to the needs of those locally but we are also called to look beyond ourselves, to situations in the wider world; to challenge unjust structures in society and advocate peace and reconciliation.

As we are confronted with the unequal distribution of the world’s resources and the extreme poverty suffered by many, we can refer to St Augustine’s words, ‘What we waste, we steal from the poor.’ That direct statement is a challenge to all of us who live with plenty. As we strive to answer the call to promote justice and act with compassion there is an important question to ask ourselves: ‘To whom have we linked our destiny?’ Recognising everyone and everything as part of God’s creation and as being a presence of God, will lead us towards a challenging response to this question.

‘When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

34 ‘Then the King will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was ill and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”

37 ‘Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you ill or in prison and go to visit you?”

40 ‘The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Matthew 25

‘With openness of mind also towards each other we shall together be attentive to the voice of the Spirit in our community, in the Church and in the signs of the times’ Constitutions Chapter II 13

‘While adhering faithfully to the living tradition of each chapter, we must be open to changing needs and circumstances’ Constitutions Chapter IV 53

‘We ought above all to love God and then our neighbour, for these are the greatest commandments that have been given to us’ Rule of St Augustine

for reflection…

  1. St Augustine said “What we waste we steal from the poor”. What does this mean and what further questions does it raise?
  2. What are the crying needs of our times?
  3. We want to encourage people to meet the needs locally and globally and at the same time to challenge any unjust structures which promote any form of poverty and oppression. How do you feel about this challenge?
  4. Our quotes have distinguished between world and planet. What do you understand by this and are we right to make a distinction?
  5. a) Structural injustice
    As part of the developed world, to whom have we, as a society, linked our destiny?
    b) On a personal level
    In my own life, to whom have I linked my destiny?
  6. What is the difference between charity and justice?
    With reference to the two feet of Christian service (‘working for social justice’ and ‘charitable works’), can you think of any other examples of works of mercy and of works of social action?

Creating a community of love, filled with hope