Thursday, August 01, 2019

Welcoming our neighbors with genuine respect, hospitality

In light of comments my staff and I have received from our fellow Catholics about whether we should have bilingual liturgies or liturgies in language other than English, I find it necessary to remind us all that it is through faith we are children of God. We cannot genuinely say we love the Lord who we have never seen, but fail to love those we see every day because we are brothers and sisters who are called to love with the love of the Lord. We, who have been baptized into Christ, have clothed ourselves with Christ Jesus (Gal 3:26-27).

Our faith in Jesus Christ is not so much about us as individuals as it is about us as a loving family. Christ remains present through the church. We must all be able to sit around the Eucharistic table without regard to distinction — nationality, ethnicity, language, age or gender. We are social people, and as such, we have an obligation to extend hospitality to those with whom we meet every day. Having been baptized into the common priesthood of the faithful, we have been charged with exercising hospitality. Acknowledging our neighbor in his native language that may be different from our own is an expression of genuine hospitality and respect.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains well the call to hospitality as it conveys that baptism is the sacrament through which we enter the church and are united to Jesus Christ. Baptism signifies the universal call of the Gospel, and incorporates one into Christ and the community. 

The Catechism reminds us, “It is impossible to belong to Christ without at the same time belonging to the Church of Christ. Believing is never an isolated activity” (166). We cannot belong to Christ without being a part of the whole Body of Christ because being born again to new life in Christ brings forward a whole community and family of faith. 

Some areas of our nation, and even some communities in our diocese, have a storied history of not always expressing hospitality. There was a time when racism flourished, and Jim Crow was the law of the land. This stain on the fabric of what should have been a just and moral society, even crept into our some of our parish communities. 

However, as painful as these experiences were, and still are, for many people in our communities, we cannot allow each other to live out of our wounds, though painful. Authentic disciples must understand the obligation to proclaim the Gospel, bringing about the true fellowship with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ (1Jn 1:3). Authentic disciples on mission are challenged to live up to the Gospel values fully and completely.

Let us never forget the joys, hopes, griefs and anxieties of society — particularly the poor or afflicted — are the joys, hopes, griefs and anxieties of the Christian faithful (Guadium et spes, no. 1). So whenever people rail against the presence of Spanish-language liturgies or liturgies in other languages within our diocese, I am encouraged to remind them there is an intimate relationship between evangelization, discipleship and liturgy. This relationship unfailingly has a strong effect on the life of the church. After all, Jesus came from all mankind for all mankind — regardless of station in life, race or cultural background. 

May the Mother of God, through her never-failing intercession, always watch over the church as we strive to do the work of her Son in this world.

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