September 16, 2016

That All May Be One / Fr. Rick Ginther

Caring, compassion integral to many faith traditions

Fr. Rick GintherThe Festival of Faiths is in final preparation. I hope that you can join the many folks of other religions from 1-5 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 18. Veteran’s Memorial Plaza in downtown Indianapolis is the location. Come visit the many displays of how religions have played, and continue to play, a vital role in the history of the state of Indiana!

This event is not ecumenical. It is interreligious. Though this column’s title, “That All May Be One” (John 17) is decidedly ecumenical, Jesus demonstrated a universal care for any who came to him. All who sought the “truth” were welcome.

In past columns, I have noted the varied documents of the Church which urge us to learn about and become engaged with other Christians and other religions.

Sometimes, official documents do not leave a lasting impression as to “why” we do both. Let me try to “unofficially” explain the connection.

That they all may be one. This concerns solidarity.

As the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it, solidarity is “a feeling of unity between people who have the same interests, goals, etc.”

Solidarity is used often in Catholic social teaching to describe our oneness with all humanity.

We are human.We are creatures. All are valuable.

Virtually all world religions consider human beings as created by God (however named or described). And for these religions, all humans are destined for ultimate, eternal union with the divine.

This universal truth leads to another. The cares and concerns of this life are focal points for encountering our unity.

Meeting the basic needs of humanity is one of the evident touchstones which bring people of religion together in a common cause.

In all religions of which I am aware, care for human needs—without regard to race, religion, nationality—is a constitutive element. Moments of overwhelming need (e.g., the recent earthquake in Italy, the flooding in Baton Rouge) call upon government response, yes. But faith-based organizations respond, too.

Catholic Charities. Jewish Coalition for Disaster Relief. SEWA (Hindu). Buddhist Global Relief. Sikh Relief.

Each world religion has groups which focus on social justice—hunger, shelter, employment, education, equality, dignity.

In this broader sense then, we are all brothers and sisters. We are driven by our various faiths to be attentive to our common humanity in its joys and sorrows, need and wants.

If the needs of all are to be served—both basically and in times of disaster—then the varied religions of our world need to be comfortable with each other. We need to admire each other! And be thankful for one another.

Catholics, in our belief and outreach, are compassionate and caring in Christ. How can we not admire such in others, even if they do not believe and name what they do in Christ? Do they not do it in the name of God?

When I was the rector of SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral, the Cathedral Soup Kitchen served the hungry Monday through Friday. Christmas often fell on a weekday. How would the people be fed on that day?

They were. Our Jewish brothers and sisters, recognizing the need of Catholic volunteers to celebrate with their own families on that day, came to the Kitchen. And the many were fed.
 

(Father Rick Ginther is director of the archdiocesan Office of Ecumenism. He is also pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Indianapolis.)

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