"A lay Catholic perspective"

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Appreciating Diversity

by Cecile Flater


THERE IS A BEAUTIFUL DIVERSITY in Christian unity. It can be compared to an oil painting. If there is only one color and one shade of paint used, the picture is dull and uninteresting. But as soon as different colors and shades are used, the picture becomes alive and attractive. So it is in our oneness in Christ. Each of us has our own unique personality, background and expression of following Jesus. As special individuals we are brought together just as we are in order to build up the Church. In Ephesians 4:15-16 Saint Paul says,

If we live by the truth and in love, we shall grow in all ways into Christ, who is the head by whom the whole body is fitted and joined together, every joint adding its own strength, for each part to work according to its function. So the body grows until it has built itself up in love.

Therefore, as each one of us comes together in Christ to love and serve one another with our particular gift, we fulfil a most beautiful and attractive vision -- our call from God. Both sexes have equal dignity and compliment one another. As Jesus is a model for men, Mary is a model for women. Mary waited upon the Lord her entire life and remained faithful even to the foot of his cross, always ready to do the will of God. Women are co-workers in advancing the kingdom of God. Through Mary, Jesus has created a place of oneness with all people.

As we become one in truth and doctrine in the Church, united with our pope, we experience Christian unity. Our example and love for one another has a great power to attract others to reconcile with the Church and enter into a wonderful life in God's truth.

The diversity in parish life reflects the profound diversity we often encounter in marriage. The two very wonderful but different people who have joined their lives together couldn't possible agree on everything. No surprise! Still, we are committed to loving each other in good times and bad. A couple may not always feel like loving but we decide to love. The answer to any disagreement is always to give way to one another out of reverence for Christ. There is a mutual love relationship which needs a full commitment and unconditional acceptance. In this mutual love, the strength and diversity which attracted us to each other in the first place, become great sources of growth and fulfilment.

Because our parishes are so large, none of us could ever interact personally with everyone. There is, however, a parallel to family relationships. Giving way to one another out of reverence for Christ certainly improves our relationships with our Christian brothers and sisters. With this loving attitude of placing others before ourselves we give the Lord the opportunity to create a peaceful, loving atmosphere that promotes an active spirituality.

Once we not only accept, but come to love our differences as being important for building up the Church, we can focus on Christ who binds us together in love.

Bear with one another charitably in complete selflessness, gentleness and patience. Do all you can to preserve the unity of the Spirit by the peace that binds you together.[1]

As we remain faithful to the teachings of the Church, giving way to one another out of reverence for Christ and accepting our differences, God's great plan of Christian unity unfolds before us. Let us pray for the grace of God to say yes to him in whatever way he wants us to be involved in the Church. Let us offer ourselves completely to God's plan giving up any preconceived ideas we have for ourselves and others. Let us pray for the courage to keep our eyes on Jesus who prayed that all Christians be one.[2]

There is a magnificent person praying for us right now! She is our Blessed Mother, Mary. This beautiful lady constantly intercedes for us. Mary accepts and loves us just as we are. She accepted John as her very own Son at the foot of Jesus' cross. This is symbolic of her welcoming each one of us into her tender heart as her sons and daughters. May she lead us to the same warm acceptance and love for another.

[1] Ephsians 4:2-4

[2] cf. John 17:21-24