As you are reading this column the world has come together in a gigantic effort to declare our common humanity. Every four years we initiate this global ritual to come together as the human family to engage in friendly competition. Even though the spirit of nationalism will be evident, losers and winners will hug each other as they practice the virtues of sportsmanship. Watching the opening and the closing ceremonies of the Olympics, all of us feel connected in some way to our brothers and sisters living in other parts of the world. We experience a profound solidarity that bonds us in a curiously mystical fashion.
What is happening in Rio is certainly not reflective of what is going on in our world. More than ever, more than even when the Iron Curtain was in place, humanity seems to be radically fragmented and fractured. There is much violence and unrest occurring in many parts of the globe. Roaring fires of ancient hatreds seem to be rising higher and age-old enemies continue to be at war with each other. New hostilities appear to sprout on a daily basis. Unspeakable acts of barbaric brutality are committed against the innocent. All of us worry about our children and grandchildren and about the kind of world they will inhabit.
The National Conventions of both parties have concluded and the incendiary rhetoric only grows stronger by the day. I am already sick and tired of this campaign season, and many wonder how we will survive another one hundred days of such negative political discourse. Both parties are demonizing each other. They seem to have adopted the Roman adage that says, “Divide and conquer!” As a nation, we are deeply polarized and seem unable to engage each other in productive, respectful dialog. Media pundits and talking heads exploit this polarization and in the process drive the nation deeper into crisis.
For years now, media companies and movie makers have produced shows and films that pit one group against another. We always have enemies whom we should fear and hate. In the Westerns, our enemies were the American Indians (or, Native Americans as we call them now). Then after the great wars, the Germans became our dreaded foes. Then it was the Russians’ turn. For a little while, our enemies hailed from the Middle East. In recent years, our fearsome foes are aliens because no one can object that we are portraying aliens in a negative light. Media have for years tried to convince us that it is us against them.
The Gospel, on the other hand, challenges us to fight this tendency to divide and to hate. Jesus pointed out that all of us are children of the Father. He told us that the Father makes the sun shine on the just and the unjust and the rain to fall on the good and the bad. Divisions come from the Evil One. In his Letters, Apostle Paul points out that the fruits of the Spirit are peace, love and unity. It was the wily serpent that forged a rift between God and our First Parents. The devil convinced them that they did not need God.
Both within the Church and in our civil society we must work for unity and solidarity. We must fight the tendency to pit one group against another. We must remind ourselves that we are children of the same Father Who created us all and Who loves us all. We must remember the words of Abraham Lincoln who, at the end of the Civil War, reminded our nation that “a house divided against itself cannot stand.” In order to nurture such solidarity and unity, we must put into practice the counsel of St Pope John XXIII who said, “Let us look for things that unite us rather than for those that divide us.”
When I left my native land in my thirties and traveled to the West, I was pleasantly surprised by the warm welcome that I received. Many even took me into their homes and their hearts so that my homesickness faded quickly. After a while I even lost sight of the fact that I looked different and talked funny. I had the same experience when I lived in Italy. As a result of my living in three continents, I have come to recognize that deep down we are all the same. We have the same hopes and dreams, pains and disappointments. We love in similar ways. We care about the same things. Our languages and cultures may be different, but our humanity is the same. All of us want to love and be loved. All of us want to be happy.
I appeal to that part of ourselves that is created in God’s image and likeness, the part that makes us one. I appeal to what is noble in us so that we will become deaf to those who appeal to our baser instincts. I appeal to our Catholic faith that challenges us to welcome the stranger and assist the weak because we are indeed welcoming the Master and entertaining angels. Let us work to realize the prayer of Jesus on the eve of His suffering: “Father, may they be one as we are one!” I invite you to watch an old movie, Chocolat. At the end of that movie, the young parish priest of the village gives a memorable homily on Easter Sunday. We will do well to bear in mind his words: “We must measure our goodness not by what we oppose, by what we resist, by what we hate, but by what we embrace, by what we create, by what we love.”
Let us pray for unity. Let us implore the Holy Spirit Who can make us one.
Born in India to deeply-committed Catholic parents, Fr Britto is one of seven children. He joined the Salesians of Don Bosco as a young man and was ordained a priest in 1981.
After he completed his priestly formation and his early education in India, he came to the US for his graduate degree in Journalism at...Read more...