Study: When in life have I encountered a diverse group of people? How did the experience change me?
Pray: What in my life needs to be touched by the Lord so I can relate with others as a disciple of Christ?
Serve: Are there divisions in my life right now? If so, how can I help bring unity and peace to the people in my life?
Watching Pope Francis during World Youth Day in Rio brought back memories of my own twenty years ago. It was 1993 when I traveled to Denver, Colorado to see Pope John Paul II. I was about to begin graduate theology in the seminary, and I thought that the experience would “be good” for me as I prepared for the priesthood.
I was right.
During that amazing week I treasured many rich and wonderful experiences, but one that will forever remain in my mind was the final mass. I was leading a group of students who had hiked into the park site the day before, and as the evening passed we visited with people from around the world.
Everywhere you looked there were nations represented by young adults singing, dancing, playing music, and talking. Walking among the groups I picked out many languages – Spanish, Italian, French, Polish, Swahili, Greek, Chinese – and others I did not recognize.
People were friendly! If you stayed with a group they would get you to sing or dance with them, or else they would try to communicate – even when a language barrier was present. On that night we knew in our hearts that despite our differences, we were united together as one family.
Isaiah today proclaims in the first reading that distance, language, and race will not keep God away from the nations of the world. The Lord will set a sign among the peoples, inviting them to gather and stand united in the midst of God’s glory as one family and one community.
This proclamation reminds us that we, too, are invited to be open to one another, regardless of the differences that may appear. For just as the Lord calls all together, so too do we recognize the unity we share as children created in the image and likeness of God.
We have many opportunities to express this unity everyday. Do we show warmth and hospitality to strangers and guests? Do we welcome others who speak or look differently from us? Do we cultivate attitudes that respect others, despite our differences?
When we are open to other people, we begin to see as God sees. We recognize that as the Lord’s children, there is much more that unites us than what divides. We discover that God’s family is truly blessed by the differences that make us unique.