During the Octave of Easter, I visited Holy Family Catholic School in Austin to present an award to Madelyn Edwards, a seventh grader. Madelyn participated in the 2018 Dr. Martin Luther King Essay Contest on the theme, “Followers of Christ: A Rich Legacy of Equality for All People.” Drawing on the legacy of King, and the first disciples’ transformation by Christ, Madelyn reminded us that, created in the image and likeness of God, he created us to live in a state of justice and peace with the responsibility to exercise good and morally right decisions reasoned by faith.
Thinking about Madelyn’s perspective caused me to reflect on how people are largely products of their families — or cultural background and experiences. Accordingly, when bringing people of diverse cultural backgrounds together, we should always consider the varying perspectives of all persons. While inevitably there may be cultural dissonance, we should endeavor to appreciate the rich cultural contexts of our communities. Globalization and emerging technologies bring diverse peoples together not only in business and education, but also in our small communities throughout Central Texas. As we bring people together, we must equip ourselves with the capacity to champion every person’s inherent dignity and value — even when we do not agree on political views. This is how we build mutually beneficial relationships.
A couple of days after my visit to Holy Family, I participated in our diocesan Day of Reflection for Black Catholics. Bishop Joe Vásquez stressed during the gathering, “I believe the Spirit that moves, the Spirit that allowed Christ to rise from the dead, the Spirit that continues to move in and through others, the Spirit is very much alive in you.” No cultural group is merely just part of the church because we are the church; in all our blessed diversity, collectively, we are the church, he said.
“Don’t ever think of yourselves as just kind of an appendage. Don’t ever lose sight of the fact that you are the Church, just the way you are!” Bishop Vásquez emphasized.
Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation, “Gaudete et Exsultate” (Rejoice and Be Glad), forthrightly provides anew the clarion call to reorient ourselves to holiness. Pope Francis “[reproposes] the call to holiness in a practical way for our own time, with all its risks, challenges and opportunities.” Considering the complexities of the ever-fluctuating uncertainties of the political landscape around the world, and in our own domestic communities, meaningful encounter and respect for every human person is a priority for living together as a people destined for greatness, a people holy to the Lord.
This call to holiness keeps before us our relationship with and responsibilities to the Lord, who has always kept his covenant of mercy to his people. When we strive to live in holiness, we exercise better commitment and courage. Our commitment to people — as in the Parable of the Good Samaritan — helps us to meet each other in our brokenness. Yes, this means we reach out with preferential concern to those who are weak, vulnerable, poor and oppressed. Courage compels us to always advance the more difficult right and just as opposed to the easy wrong when others are being persecuted and mistreated.
As Madelyn instructs in her essay, “We must stand up, fight, and not cower.” It is courage that enables us to stand up and champion the concerns of those who look different from us. We do it because, as Madelyn’s peers at Holy Family Catholic School ably remind us, “We are ‘holy’ people!”