“A true Christian is one who sees Christ in everything and everyone else.”
I’ve been told this is a definition that will never fail you, always demand more from you, and free you from any need for fighting, exclusion, or rejection. It captures the essential work of religion, a word itself that comes from the Latin word religare “to connect or bind”; to recognize, recover, and restore the divine image we are all created in.
But how often do we become desensitized to the transformative and liberating message of our Christian faith instead? Why we do we fall constantly into those fear-fueled traps? How much easier is it to keep our Christ-blinders on, fortifying our inner circle instead of expanding it into the true scope of God’s grace. To judge, look down on, or fearfully avoid the other, the different – whether that be the homeless, the atheist, the deviant, the annoying? How did we allow religion itself to become culturally synonymous with religious hypocrisy?
Fortunately, our readings today show us the timelessness of this struggle. Amid Jesus’ own ministry the religious elite complained of Jesus’ inclusiveness to sinners, a criticism Jesus responded to with parables that remind us God rejoices in all repentance.
Jesus uses the word Repent constantly in his ministry. The word itself gives us hope to combat the judgementalism that can erode the deepest faith. The original Greek word Metanoia that repent translates from simply means “change your mind”, “go beyond your thought.” Who, from the most hopeless sinner to the most illustrious cardinal (to even the most faithful Daily Passionist Reflection reader!) is not in need of going beyond our minds, of transforming our thoughts more towards God? How can we do this when we are so busy creating a wall between ourselves and others; when we are too busy internally or externally dividing ourselves from the sinners, the unclean, and the unworthy?
Isn’t the great, beautiful mission of Christianity to take part in divine solidarity with everyone and everything? Doesn’t Jesus’ great act of sacrifice represent this perfectly; God choosing solidarity over punishment of the human race? In that moment of suffering, God’s merciful arms are still extended to the entire world. What are we doing to emulate that kind of accepting, reconciling love?
Today in our prayers and our actions let’s go beyond our thoughts, of the in-group and out-group or the damned and the saved, and instead focus our energy over loving as God loves, of accepting the Christ in everyone and everything; of really, truly opening our eyes to the God waiting to be uncovered everywhere.