Every week I read the Leinster Express and every week there seem more tales of crime: thefts, break-ins and robberies; threats, assaults and violence. The stories leave us all with a feeling of fear, we spend more time locking every window and door, we spend more and more money on alarm systems and security cameras. It wasn’t always like this. It was not so long ago that doors could be left open, cars could be left unlocked, things could be left in yards without any fear of them being touched.
I don’t believe the world has to be like this, I don’t believe that our future has to be one of ever higher walls and fences, of electric gates and intercoms, of CCTV cameras at every junction, and constant text alerts. Perhaps the season of Lent is a time when we can start to make our own small efforts to change things.
The Gospels of Saint Matthew and Saint Luke tell the story of Jesus spending forty days in the wilderness. The first temptation he faces is to use his power to turn the stones into bread, it is a temptation to be concerned with himself, a temptation to look after his own needs, and not to care about all the other things God asked of him.
The temptation to put ourselves first, to use whatever we have for ourselves, and not to be concerned about others, is very strong. We live in times when we are becoming more and more separated – televisions meant neighbours no longer called with neighbours in the way they once did, now computers, tablets and smartphones are dividing family members into groups of individuals sitting in the same room. More and more, we live our own lives, inside our our own world.
When we become individuals, and not a community, then people become anonymous, then we don’t recognize people and we don’t take notice of what is happening around us in the way that we used to do. Not so long ago, we might have known everyone in our neighbourhood, we might have known every car that passed along a road, now our world has changed and we pass strangers more often than friends. Crime can thrive when people can become anonymous, when they know there is no-one who will recognize them, no-one who will wonder why they are in a particular yard or driveway.
This Lent, we can think about that first temptation, the temptation to be concerned with ourselves and to forget about our neighbour. We can decide to look around us and note all that is going on. We can decide not to just let things pass, but to hand on to the Gardai any information we have. We can decide that if no-one is anonymous, then no-one can get away with things, and none of us should have to live in fear.