The Need for Paying Attention to One Another
by Thiago Silva, ThM
We enter this world by receiving abundant attention and affection. As infants, we effortlessly draw the focus of our parents, grandparents, and acquaintances.
The early stages of our lives are marked by the loving care, patience, and affection bestowed upon us by others. During this phase, we are reliant and require assistance in learning to walk and developing vital survival skills.
However, as we mature, we strive for independence, learning to walk alone, nourish ourselves, solve problems independently, and eventually acquire our own car and home.“The early stages of our lives are marked by the loving care, patience, and affection bestowed upon us by others.”
We may believe we have achieved independence, but sooner than expected, we realize that true independence eludes us, leaving us instead as lonely individuals.
It is common for pastors to hear grievances from individuals who feel forsaken and isolated.
This sentiment permeates people of all backgrounds—men and women, young and old, rich and poor, employed and unemployed.
A common thread among them is the pervasive sense of abandonment and solitude.
Our postmodern culture suffers from a deficit of attention. The less fortunate and unemployed feel abandoned by their friends, while parents relinquish their responsibilities to pursue careers, driven by the desire to provide luxuries they believe are essential for their children’s happiness.
Husbands and wives establish new relationship models where neither relies on nor needs the other, fostering a state of independence that is more accurately described as loneliness.“Our postmodern culture suffers from a deficit of attention.”
However, our salvation is found in Jesus’ attentive care. The Gospels are replete with stories recounting encounters where Jesus demonstrated His compassion for people from all walks of life.
He interrupted His journey through a crowded space to attend to a sick woman who touched Him.
He noticed Zacchaeus, a marginalized short man known for his corrupt conduct, and extended an invitation to dine at his house.
Who can forget the profound conversation Jesus had with the Samaritan woman by the well, listening intently and offering her “living water”?“Today’s society is characterized by a prevalent lack of time and impersonality. People have become increasingly detached from one another.”
Jesus also intervened during the stoning of an adulterous woman, granting her forgiveness.
He warmly welcomed children, assuring them of their place in the kingdom of heaven. Jesus touched lepers, embraced prostitutes, and fed the hungry.
On the other hand, today’s society is characterized by a prevalent lack of time and impersonality. People have become increasingly detached from one another.
We witness the disintegration of families, the disillusionment of young people, and the rise of numerous ailments resulting from loneliness.“It is through welcoming, listening, touching, and creating an environment where others feel loved, protected, and accepted that we affirm their unique essence before God, irrespective of their physical, social, or economic circumstances.”
Pediatricians express alarm at the growing number of depressed, anxious, bored, and anguished children.
The early initiation of sexual activity, the escalating violence, and the rampant use of drugs and alcohol among the youth serve as glaring symptoms of the neglect they endure.
Therapists, in addition to their professional duties, have taken on the roles of parents, friends, and siblings that we no longer have.
As modern Christians, many of us may attempt to justify our inattentiveness to others by citing the demands of contemporary life.
We dwell in bustling cities, attend large churches, commute long distances daily, and juggle countless obligations. In short, we feel we have no time for anyone else.
However, hospitality stands as a core Christian virtue, encompassing the act of paying attention to others.
It is through welcoming, listening, touching, and creating an environment where others feel loved, protected, and accepted that we affirm their unique essence before God, irrespective of their physical, social, or economic circumstances.“The individuality of each person is affirmed not through self-realization, but through self-giving.”
It is imperative that we reclaim attention and hospitality as vital ministries of the modern Church. Both individualism and collectivism negate the significance of the individual.
Individualism isolates individuals from their communities, fostering an illusory path to self-fulfillment that ultimately leads to loneliness.
Collectivism blurs the boundaries of individuality, reducing people to mere reflections of societal trends and cultural norms. In both scenarios, the essence of uniqueness is denied.
The Church stands as the body of Christ, a place where one part cannot declare itself unnecessary to another.
What defines this “body” is interdependence and the mutual affirmation we cultivate among one another.“May we genuinely pay attention to one another, actively listen to each other’s stories, share experiences, partake in communal meals, and celebrate the grace of God.”
True conversion entails transforming our solitary “I” into a collective “we.” This newfound collective, born through Christ Jesus, is constructed as we attentively care for one another.
No one can truly feel genuine unless they are recognized as unique, and no one can experience the true essence of uniqueness except through communion with others.
The individuality of each person is affirmed not through self-realization, but through self-giving.
Jesus’ attentive regard for people restored their personal dignity. Whether it was the woman caught in adultery or the religious, well-educated, rich young man, everyone received Jesus’ care and personal attention.
Their questions were heard, their doubts were addressed, their concerns were considered, and their personal struggles were acknowledged. Jesus did not dismiss anyone who sought Him.
My prayer is for the Lord to transform the Church into a place where each person is regarded as a unique being before God and others.
To achieve this, may we genuinely pay attention to one another, actively listen to each other’s stories, share experiences, partake in communal meals (sharing the bread and the wine), and celebrate the grace of God.
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