Neighborhoods reflect those who live in them. The efforts of the people living on the street make the rows of houses into communities, and that work is never easy. It takes extraordinary patience and kindness, a penchant for reaching out to those who live across and down the street, and a commitment to venturing out the front door. After long, hard days at work and school, it’s a pretty tall order.
That order can get even taller when getting along with our neighbors becomes complicated. It takes a special kind of patience and cooperation to be a good neighbor to those who don’t make it too easy — no matter how large or small the disagreement or altercation may be. Even a quick Google search for “neighborly” returns more negative quotes than positive ones.
But Colossians 3:11-15 reminds us, “Here there is not Greek or Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all and in all. Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do.”
As Christians, we are called to be good neighbors — especially to those it is most difficult to be a good neighbor to. Asking for help is okay (essential!) too — God does not expect us to be the perfect neighbor on our own, guiding us instead to pray over conflicts and go to confession. One St. Brendan parishioner recounted a neighborhood disagreement in which the neighbors in two houses on her block could not stop fighting.
“One neighbor just couldn’t do anything right for the other neighbor, who ended up being so angry that they put up a cyclone fence between their houses,” she said. “My husband, too, was distraught by the events, as he really liked the neighbors who were on the receiving end of all this negativity.”
“The whole experience was saddening and disheartening, as I had always considered myself to be a good neighbor,” she said, “but I found myself losing the sense of good-neighborliness as the fighting went on and on, and these neighbors continued to make life very difficult for this other family on the block.”
“So I decided to go to confession, knowing that at least talking about the problem would be better than how I was feeling, which was really not kind or positive to these neighbors,” she said. “I went to the Saturday afternoon confessions and just poured out my troubles,” she said. “As soon as I had brought everything I was feeling into the open, and the priest had absolved me, I felt an unmistakable sense of physical lightness, like nothing I had ever felt before.”
“Confession allowed me to be kind and open to these neighbors again, even when it seemed impossible,” she said. “The power of absolution allowed me to see past the negative emotion that had been clouding my neighborliness, and brought me back into the good neighbor role I wanted to play.”
--Claire Kosewic, Staff Bulletin Writer
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