I found myself at a Catholic mass this past Saturday. The gospel was Jesus’ parable about Lazarus and the rich man. In life Lazarus suffers, begging at the rich man’s gate while the rich man ignores him and lives in luxury. But in death Lazarus goes to heaven while the rich man suffers in hell. Father James’ homily touched on themes present in the parable, including the invisibility of the poor and suffering. Highlighting that not only evil actions, but also lack of action can be a great sin. Then Father turned to a line of thought that spoke to me, that I think is especially relevant to today.
In the Bible opposites are often used in parables to symbolize or illustrate a point. But in our world we hear about instances of opposition constantly thanks to the ever-present media. We hear about nothing but division. Rich vs. poor, blacks vs. whites, Muslim vs. Christian. Very rarely do we hear about unity, about people banding together. In this world, we are so focused on divisions that it is easy to forget that we are all people of God. And as people of God we all deserve a basic level of respect and love. Father James went as far as to say that this principle includes people like Hitler and Saddam Hussein. He said it was up to us to rise above the divisions of the world and the media, to be spiritually motivated and act with love and kindness toward all.
I was inspired and encouraged by his words. But after the service, one member announced a youth program open to any high-schooler of any faith aimed a spiritual growth… and working to bring any non-Catholics into the fold. I got chatting with Father after the service, and after learning I belonged to the Episcopal church down the road, he encouraged me to return to mass and come back to my Catholic roots. Considering the trend of exodus from the pews, who can blame him? To keep the Catholic tradition alive, faith flourishing, and the Church viable, it is in his best interest to gain parishioners and converts. I found it a bit ironic however considering the sermon that day. Apparently we are all children of God, but ideally we would all be Catholic children of God. Furthermore, if Father James is looking to increase the Catholic ranks, I think it makes the most sense to focus on those that don’t prescribe to any religion rather than stealing people away from other faiths or other Christian denominations. According to him divisions should be disregarded to some degree. But in reality they still very much matter, especially concerning those who are Catholic and those who are not.