The World Community – living out the gospel
What can we learn from Pierre-Marie Théas about how we should treat others?
It can be easy to get to know a neighbour who lives nearby or to show love to family, friends and people that act in a likeable way but it’s much harder to love a stranger, or a person who lives miles away who you don’t see very often or someone who behaves badly towards you. Can a person love someone whose actions they hate or who hates them?
Showing compassion for those who are poor or sick may not seem that difficult. When images of others suffering appear on television many people feel compelled to respond. Jesus took this one step further telling people that they should even “love their enemies” or those who mistreat them. During the late twentieth century, Pope John Paul II used the term “social love” to show that all people should be considered a neighbour. Read more in The Parable of the Good Samaritan.
Pierre-Marie Théas, a Catholic Bishop of Montauban in the South of France demonstrated love in the face of adversity. During the second world war he was one of the only bishops to protest about the deportation of Jews from France. In a pastoral letter to be read throughout his diocese he wrote: “all men, whatever their race or religion have the right to be respected by individuals and by states”. On 9th June 1944 the Gestapo arrested Bishop Théas and sent him to a prison camp at Compiègne. While he was there the other prisoners asked him to lead them in prayer and reflection. Théas chose to preach on “Love your enemies” and suggested that the prisoners should pray for their gaolers. This provoked a strong reaction as those interned found it so hard to accept. When Théas had the chance to say Mass in the camp he offered it for Germany. Read more on the Pax Christie website.
Although Théas put himself at risk, his actions followed the words of Jesus in Matthew’s gospel, that when people speak up for and treat well those who are marginalised, persecuted and imprisoned it is a though they are doing this for Jesus himself. Théas saw the Jewish people who were suffering as his neighbours and that in serving them he was serving Jesus. Likewise he also saw those who persecuted others as people in need of help and sought to promote forgiveness and reconciliation and encourage others to do the same. On July 8th, 1969, Yad Vashem recognized Théas as “Righteous Among the Nations” for the way he spoke out for those who were persecuted and for the suffering he also endured during The Holocaust. Théas in his life and words saw individuals as though they were brothers and sisters who should be valued and through his actions sought to overcome hatred with love.
Read more about what Jesus had to say about Revenge and Love of Enemies
Find out about Liz, a Christian nurse who cares for the sick.
Take a look at Reflex a Christian charity set up to work with and support those in prison.