A Year of Mercy: An Inclusive Community

There is a wonderful little video on YouTube called “Crossing the Great Divide”. It was created by a member of our community, Ryan Barton. Ryan relates the story of a young man starting out in life and leaving the northside to find work on the southside of Fredericton. To do so he leaves family and friends, setting and home to go across the “Great Divide”. It is a story filled with humour but also expressive of how difficult it is to look beyond what is familiar and comfortable for us.

Humourous as this might be and it is, the video is really a description of the human experience which we live. We and our world have many “Great Divides”. They can be seen on the global scene where cultures, religions and nations find identity and expression by seeing the differences that exist with others – “we” are different from “them”. To focus on our differences from the “other” is a recipe that often creates fears and emotions leading to divisions, conflicts and even wars. Their result is injustice, suffering and great pain for many.

These “divides” similarly affect us in local communities (even a river can do it) as well as in our personal lives. The result is create divisions among our families, our neighbourhoods and even our parish communities. Worse, it creates an “us and them” mentality in which some become outcasts and excluded.

One common element of this divisive experience is the focus on differences, seeing the other as precisely and often only that, the “other”. In fact, we are all more alike than we are different. We hold in our hearts the same hopes and dreams. We live the same relationships of family and friendship. We work for the same ultimate goal - a life that is happy and fulfilling which is God’s dream for humanity. We are much more alike than our differences might express. This is true within our community, and it is similarly true of our relationships with those other communities, cultures, languages, religious traditions and races.

To move outside our comfort zone, with which we are familiar takes determination and courage. To do so is to be willing to risk the unknown. But the fruits of such steps are immense. It creates a world in which we can foster justice and peace. It strengthens the bond and recognizes the unity which is God’s dream for all humanity.

“Catholic” is the term that we use for our faith community. It also is intended to describe who we are. In fact it appears in our Nicene Creed where we declare: “I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic church.” What does this word mean? What are we saying when we call ourselves “catholic”?

The word has its origins in the Greek language and literally it means “to include all” or “to gather into one”. What a description of God’s plan for all humanity, indeed all of creation. Jesus expresses it in John’s Gospel when he prays for his disciples, that they may all be one. (John 17:11, 20-23). Paul wrote to the Corinthian community of Christians. Using the image of the human body with its many parts he pointed out how though made up of many different parts, the body is one. For him this was an image of the Christian community, the church. Though many and diverse we are one and in fact are an image of humanity.

In this Year of Mercy our church is called to recognize our catholicity, our unity and openness to diversity through the way in which we are ready to gather and include all. Our efforts to welcome our Syrian family this year is an expression of being a true Catholic Christian community.

Question -What can I do to show that I am a truly Catholic Christian?