- Fr. John Jennings
Our Sacred Stories: Who Am I, Really?
A while ago, I watched a High School soccer game. It was a single elimination game in the playoffs and so the winner moved on to the next round while the loser was eliminated. Such a crucial game is hotly contested. Despite the competition, when the game ended losers and winners lined up to shake hands. It is a scene repeated over and over in many sports. Despite the competitive spirit throughout the game, when it is over, the contesting sides realize they have a common love of the sport and the game, and that this is a shared experience.
All of us, in our humanity share many things in common. We might have differences in views, diversity in tastes and be marked by a variety of faiths, cultures and languages. But fundamentally we all share a common humanity, no matter our race, colour or creed. Perhaps too often we forget or disregard that commonality and we focus on our differences as a way to express who we are.
In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus presents us with a parable (Luke 18:9-14). It tells the tale of two persons going up to the Temple to pray. One is a Pharisee, the other, a tax collector. The Pharisee rhymed off all that he did to keep the law, including fasting and donating. He pointed out that he was different from others including the tax collector. The tax collector stood far away and simply said he was a sinner.
Each of the two began their prayer by identifying something of themselves. Whether they focused on their gifts as the Pharisee did or their flaws as the tax collector did, they noted their differences. That was what stood out for them and expressed who they were.
There is a uniqueness to us all. We are marked by our own special gifts and it is important for us to recognize, value and express them. We also have our own flaws, failures and sins. We need to acknowledge these as well. Perhaps most important of all, however, we have to recognize that there is more than gifts and flaws that define us. The two persons in Jesus’s parable both came to the Temple to pray. They shared a common faith and had a need to express it in prayer. More than that, they shared a common humanity.
For all our uniqueness we are part of God’s life-giving gift of creation. As well, we are the focus of God’s eternal love. Our faith in the Incarnation, the way God has chosen to be among and share our humanity in Jesus expresses this oneness. This unity seems to come to the forefront when we face challenges, floods, fires and other disasters. It is then that we notice we come together as communities, sharing gifts and resources. Then we recognize our common humanity.
Pope Francis emphasizes this in his encyclical letter “Laudato Si” where he called on all Catholics, all Christians, all faiths, indeed all of the human family to recognize our responsibility for the creation we share. Our impact on climate and our environment pose a concern for the whole human family. As Francis expresses it – the earth is our “common home”. It is given over to all of us for our shared well-being. And, it is our responsibility to care for it, all of it, all of creation.
As Catholic Christians at Eucharist, we express an awareness of being one with all. This sacrament, gathering us around the table to express our shared gratitude to God and acknowledging our oneness in faith draws us together as one people. It also feeds us to reach out in care and compassion for our common home and our common family of humanity.
Who are we, really? We are members of one human family and Christians who come together to celebrate our shared faith in a God who loves all of our human family without reservation, no matter what.