We live in increments of time, wedged between emotions and thought, possibilities and tragedies. We desire what is best, safe, comfortable and peaceful. We search for increasing ease, quality lives, renewed purpose. And so we scrap and struggle, attack and defend, yearn and mourn. We judge and adjudicate, label and choose, point and profess. Frustration pleads with its own persistence, spills into deliberate action and bursts unbidden into quiet spaces. Somewhere, Love wrestles with the whole of who we are, navigating the channels of human incompleteness with courage and compassion waiting to be called upon. So it is, and so it has been.
Here we are, at the end of a liturgical year littered with scandals and scoured by shame. Here we are, staggering towards the end of a secular year pronounced with polarization, weighted by fiery disasters, punctuated by mass shootings. Here we are, a nation of cynics harvesting the fruits of our own history with palpable distaste and mistrust of our greatest asset: one another.
“One another”, as a term, layers its connotations with varied shades of hospitality. Some are characterized by the consciousness of the past, others by physical appearance and some by shared experiences and labels: victim, patient, survivor, addict, widow, elderly, poor, privileged. There is a shape yielded by self-awareness, and the one awarded and communicated by the world. Sometimes, those generate a sense of “other” rather than “one”. Sometimes difference is easier to see and grasp than similarities which dwell at deeper levels. To embrace “one another” means embracing the uncertainty and ambiguity of the implications of belonging to more than self.
“Catholic”, too, is a term understood in meaty layers. There are the institutional dimensions and structures, and then there is the simplicity of the small “c” “catholic”: universal. There is a universality of human experience that has existed since humans began carving lives and worlds from geographic and historical contexts. There are common denominators of journey and struggle, hope and possibility, idealism and brokenness, betrayal and failure.
Here, as experience fades into memory and the struggle to make sense of all that the year has wrought begins, here is a critical moment. Catholicism is a bid to dare to believe that Love does have a home within all of us, that Courage and Compassion can heal the brokenness of the past, that there is room for “one another” within and among all of us. Catholicism names the personal dimension of every journey with each sacrament and recognizes that each journey takes place within the whole of humankind. Catholicism images the stream of humanity that courses through centuries, and somehow shapes tiny increments of lives into a vast human journey. And it offers courage and compassion for the inevitable twists and bends, issues and challenges.