As we look around our world and society, we can detect a spirit of division and deep separations. This polarization is felt most intensely in our personal and social encounters with one another. More than before, our ways of relating are subject to an insidious malaise that creates deep fragmentation and alienation where there should be none.
Given this predicament, we can find ourselves taking sides, pointing the finger and creating lines of no return. In short, we are growing distant from one another, even from those we love and care about. Consequently, the idea that we can and should grow closer to one another, reach out in kindness, and find common ground may feel counterintuitive, disruptive and insensitive to our felt reality.
Yet, there is also in us, as believers, a sensitivity to remembering and reclaiming a different narrative that speaks of unity, community and belonging. For Catholic Christians, the idea that we don’t belong together, that we may be wired to exist in isolation and that there are hard lines that divide us does not ring true in our minds and hearts.
The inherited Christian tradition, language and imagery speaks to a different understanding and approach to who we are and can become (1 Corinthians 12; 12-27). Throughout our Christian story, we find instances where we are invited to imagine, embrace, and enter the mystery of God that brings unity and real communion. In fact, we can emphatically assert that at the very heart of our Christian faith is the deep conviction that God has drawn near to us in Christ, and that we belong together.
More to the point, in Christ, there is no longer any credible division between us (Galatians 3:23-29) or enduring separation that can ultimately keep us from the love of Christ: “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:35-39). In the face of present-day hardships, distress and disillusionment that come from a divided world and heart, holding on to the conviction that we live for one another makes all the difference.
Ours is a faith, then, that calls us to greater nearness to one another in reconciliation and social friendship. In faith, we know that the unity and solidarity we are called to live is not some kind of pollyannaish dream or utopia. On the contrary, in Christ, we discover a truth about unity and community that does not dissolve differences, but a grace that brings differences together for the sake of the common good (1 Corinthians 12; 12-26). In Christ, we know that to be different does not mean we are separated; to be unique does not mean we stand alone or isolated.
When we may be tempted to give into the great lie of division and separation, holding on to our faith in Christ Jesus makes a difference, and points the way forward in truth and charity: “For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there are quarrels among you, my brothers, and sisters. What I mean is that each of you say, ‘I belong to Paul,’ or ‘I belong to Apollos,’ or I belong to Cephas,’ or ‘I belong to Christ.’ Has Christ been divided?” (1 Corinthians 1: 10-13). May our nearness to Christ bring us closer to one another.
F. Javier Orozco
First published February 16, 2023 in the St. Louis Review