A small man, hardly 5 ft tall, hardly 100 lbs, Yamin kept my home in Pakistan, washed the laundry, ironed the clothes, washed the fruits and vegetables, and supervised the other help that make a third-world home amenable to the upper class.
He was also a very devout Muslim, a Sunni who felt confident to remind the younger workers of their duties and to scorn Christian ways–when we were lucky enough to have ham or bacon smuggled or Embassy bought, he would open all windows and doors to avoid the hazardous odor.
To my surprise, however, Yamin despised Shia Muslims perhaps as much as he despised the infidel. One day I asked him what was wrong with the Shia. His response was short. When at prayer, he explained with careful clarity, they separate their hands like this (furrowed brow): he lifted his small hands and short arms so that they were at shoulder level and shoulder width. Not like this (placid smile): he shifted his hands four inches closer to one another. He seemed very serious. I waited to hear more of their egregious conduct, but nothing more came from his mouth.
Now anyone who is familiar with the early split of Islam will recognize that this does not even scratch the surface of the reasons for their internecine animosity. However Yamin had a small-minded perception of their difference that he magnified to justify his great religious hatred.
Within that approach to one’s brother, I see an example for reflection. We too live in fractured community. This one receives on the tongue, this one in the hand. This one wears a mask, this one doesn’t. This one is a cafeteria Catholic, this one is a real Catholic. This one is a convert, this one is a cradle Catholic. This one dresses immodestly, this one wears a veil. You see my point. At times our love and zeal make foes of our brothers and sisters at the expense of that great understanding that allowed Paul to eschew circumcision and embrace the Gentile, his former foe, and thus fulfill the great command of Christ to “love one another even as I have loved you.”
When I look upon splits and splinters within our nation, within our church, often within our families, I feel like Romeo in conversation with Benvolio after seeing the carnage in act one of Shakespeare’s passionate drama, Romeo and Juliet. Here’s much to do with hate, but more with love. When our love leads us to hate others, we need to beware.
For the opposite, let us turn to another man of modest stature but great heart and mind. The zeal of Zacchaeus was for Christ, and so he raised himself on a tree through his own ardour and gazed on him, gazed like a groupie, a shameless fan.
Christ called him down and offered to dine with him. Zaccheus’s zeal turned his eyes not upon his brother, but upon himself, and his life was transformed. Divisions ceased, and his life was made whole.
In our love for our Lord, let us imitate Zaccheus. Let us renew our lives, alter our habits, cast off former greeds and indulgences, yes, but let us not, dear brothers and sisters, condemn others or turn Pharisee in self-righteousness. Lift all to prayer and trust the Holy Spirit, the Source of all conversion and peace and love. Let our love to lead to greater love, our joy lead others to joy.
Fred Martin, Principal