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Blog: May 8, 2022

Fr. Jeff and others share reflections on the Sunday readings.

May 8, 2022

“I, John, had a vision of a great multitude,

which no one could count,

from every nation, race, people, and tongue.

They stood before the throne and before the Lamb,

wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands.”

Because of my dad’s service in the Army, we lived in Germany when I was learning to talk. Later, after my parents' divorce, my mom would put her seven-year-old son on a Greyhound in Louisville alone and my dad would meet me as I got off the bus in Indianapolis. By the time I was ten, I was flying by myself to wherever dad was stationed: Washington, DC, Miami, FL, and Kansas City, KS. After my freshman year in high school, I flew by myself to South Korea and spent the summer with dad there. We took a side trip together to Hong Kong and Bangkok. Over the Christmas break my junior year, I went to the 16th World Scout Jamboree outside of Sydney with over 14,000 scouts from 84 different countries. After my junior year, I spent the summer as a cultural exchange student living with a family for six weeks on the island of Shikoku in Japan (In Tokyo, I snuck out of the hotel with three other students, one of whom would later be a classmate at the Air Force Academy, to explore and eat an octopus pizza). By the time I graduated high school, I had lived in or visited four continents and eleven countries. With my own time in the Air Force and ministry trips as a seminarian and a priest, that is now five continents and over 20 countries. In May of 1995, at the end of my own assignment in Seoul, Korea, I attended the Global Consultation on World Evangelization as one of over 3,300 delegates from 186 different countries. 

I love the variety of cultures, the incredible diversity of people, the richness of various traditions, and the abundance of our differences that have enriched my life. I remember one poignant moment in New York City walking down an otherwise nondescript block with Hasidic Jews, Jamaicans, and Catholic Nuns all passing by or the day I was in Walgreens on Third Street in Louisville and heard four different languages, none of which was English. At the core of each of us is a human being made in the image and likeness of God. It is the fundamental truth of our existence. We are created with the same divine spark. Yet, because of our sin, our differences sometimes divide us. In the name of our differentness, we have succumbed to discrimination, conflict, and violence. We cannot forget who we are and who every other human being is: we are all the children of God. It is worth recalling in some depth the mystical experience that Thomas Merton, a monk at the Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemani, had in 1958:

“In Louisville, at the corner of Fourth and Walnut, in the center of the shopping district, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all those people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers. It was like waking from a dream of separateness, of spurious self-isolation in a special world, the world of renunciation and supposed holiness…This sense of liberation from an illusory difference was such a relief and such a joy to me that I almost laughed out loud…I have the immense joy of being man, a member of a race in which God Himself became incarnate. As if the sorrows and stupidities of the human condition could overwhelm me, now I realize what we all are. And if only everybody could realize this! But it cannot be explained. There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun…Then it was as if I suddenly saw the secret beauty of their hearts, the depths of their hearts, where neither sin nor desire nor self-knowledge can reach, the core of their reality, the person that each one is in God’s eyes. If only they could all see themselves as they really are. If only we could see each other that way all the time.”