One Church Many Cultures The Good News of Cultural Diversity Spring/Summer 2021 

To Remain in Christ, A Christian Must Choose Love

María del Mar Muñoz-Visoso, Executive Director of the Secretariat of Cultural Diversity in the Church

I have a communications background. Following the news regularly and contrasting my sources is ingrained in my DNA as a former journalist. I cannot help but want to know what happened today in the world both around me and far away. Hearing different versions is always fascinating and usually helps one to gain some perspective. I got into Catholic journalism, originally, because it allowed me to combine two passions: proclaiming the Good News and telling a good story. Or better yet, it afforded me the opportunity to share inspirational stories about everyday heroes and saints.

My current occupation does not allow me to write as often as I used to but the hunger for news is still there, good news especially. And yet, more and more, I feel tempted to disengage, to turn off the “bad news”. It seems that’s all there is to report anymore! There are days in which I feel the need to stop the torrent of stories filled with violence, hateful acts and hateful speech, disrespect of certain groups of people and communities, and blunt general disregard for human life and the dignity of all people.

Sometimes one needs to take a break from so much negativity, repeated a thousand times and spreading online like a virus. Constant exposure to it affects our mood and our relationships, and after a while people begin to believe that is all there is to the world, a scary place where every man is for himself, where there is no room for cordial engagement or collaboration for the common good. Weariness makes the temptation to disengage loom large. But looking the other way or disengaging from what is going on around us, and sometimes because of us, is akin to the attitude that Jesus exposes about the priest and the Levite in the story of the Good Samaritan (Lk 10:25-37).

In Fratelli Tutti Pope Francis uses this parable to analyze our social relationships, and the language he proposes is striking: “It could be said that, here and now, anyone who is neither a robber nor a passer-by is either injured himself or bearing an injured person on his shoulders.” (FT 70) This language frightens me. It prompts me to think: Lord, which one of those characters am I? What does my personal life and ministry look like? Am I a robber? A passerby? Am I injured and in need of healing myself? How many injured lives am I carrying on my shoulders?

The story of the Good Samaritan is constantly being repeated in today’s world. And yet, Francis reminds us that Jesus uses this parable to encourage us, to show us the Christ-like path forward. What is a Christian to do in front of so much violence and suffering, danger and injustice?

The Lord encourages us “to persevere in love, to restore dignity to the suffering and to build a society worthy of the name.” (FT 71). What if we were all to examine our everyday actions and reactions, our ministry and witness through the lenses of those three verbs: Today, how much did I persevere in love, contribute to restoring the dignity of others, and help to build a true community? How about my community of faith and those who I admire, how well did they measure up? How well did the sources I rely on for information and education do?

As Catholic Christians we are called to fashion our communities and relationships in the image and likeness of the Holy Trinity, a true communion of love and life, our model per excellence of unity in diversity brought together by the strongest bond of all: Love. It is our contribution to the world and to society. Or at least it should be.

It is hard to “persevere in love”. Yet, that is exactly what is required of any Christian worthy of their name. “As the Father loves me, so I love you. Remain in my love” (Jn 15:9) A true follower of Christ cannot be a passerby, ignoring human suffering and looking the other way; cannot remain indifferent to human suffering and hateful speech; cannot and should not contribute in any way to sowing division or inciting violence against others. A true Christian allows the Holy Spirit to help them overcome their fear and become the personification of the merciful embrace of the Father. A Christian must act to restore dignity; must employee the means at his or her disposal to heal injuries and divisions and allow the “Inn-keeper” to do what is necessary to restore health. As a member of the One Body, a Christian cannot tell another member “I don’t need you” (cf. 1Cor 12:21-22). And God forbid that we Christians, individually or collectively, be ourselves the “robbers” of the dignity of others…

So, let us not allow ourselves to be uprooted and carried away by the twisters and tornados of the “bad news” constantly on display, even in Catholic social media. No. A Christian must persevere in love, like a tree firmly planted and a house built on solid rock. After all, Christ leaves no room for interpretation: “This I command you: Love one another.” (Jn 15:17)