By my parents, my heritage is Polish and Lithuanian. However, I love Scotland and have been there several times, and would love to visit again. Does that make me any less of an American? No; the United States is my home. All it does is categorize me within the multitudes of the human race. It does illustrate that I have the ability to not only celebrate my heritage, but to appreciate that of others. There are countless people that have come before me, and an unknown number who will come after me, yet we are all God’s children: unique, diverse, and loved by God.
In Genesis, Adam named all the creatures of the earth. From the beginning we have looked for ways to identify another’s unique traits as well as similarities to others. This action, itself, is not a bad thing. It could actually be good; for if you know someone has a skill you lack, you can seek out their knowledge and abilities when you need them. However, if the purpose is to elevate yourself in comparing yourself to another, it is the intention that makes the action evil. We’re all familiar with the story about the Pharisee that thanks God that he’s not like the tax collector. (Luke 18:9-14) While we should thank God for the skills and blessings He has bestowed on us, we should not do so at another’s expense. In fact, we are called to share those blessings, especially with those whom our first inclination is to judge.
“I believe in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.” We say it as part of the Nicene Creed each Sunday and Holy Day at Mass. One of the most beautiful things about Catholicism is that, well, it’s Catholic, that means universal. One candidate of RCIA at my parish is from Croatia and commented that she was surprised that the prayers match from her native language to English. This commonality gives Catholics the ability to travel anywhere on earth, from Rome, Poland and Croatia to Australia, the Philippines and the United States, attend and recognize Mass because it is the same everywhere. Yes, the language may be different, but you can follow along in your native language, praying together as one Church. We can even look to pray in unity with other Christian religions, using the Our Father. We can find common praises to God with those of the Jewish faith using the Psalms. We can also find common ground with those of the Islamic religion who also claim Abraham as a father in faith, and who have great respect for Job. We can balance the differences amongst the human race as long as we look at what is common between us and don’t hyperfocus exclusively on what makes us different.
Even in the early Church, Paul had some bold proclamations to the Romans about their behaviors. In chapters 12 through 15, he exhorts the community to live a new life in Christ. In describing the marks of the true Christian, he says, “Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with brotherly affection; outdo one another in showing honor.” (Rom 12:9-10) Over the course of these chapters, he urges them not to judge one another, not to hinder another and to please others, not themselves. He reminds them that the Gospel is for both Jews and Gentiles alike. Reading and reflecting over these chapters often provides a good base for an examination of conscience and may also show us where we need to grow.
On the night before Jesus died, He gave us a new commandment, “love one another; even as I have loved you.” (John 13:34) Jesus loved us so much that He gave His life up for us. We are called to love each other with that same passion. For the times we fail, we seek forgiveness. In our times of struggle, we pray for the grace to love as Jesus asks us. And when we make it to heaven, we will not only see God as He is, undivided unity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, but we will share in the communion of saints in that same unity.