October 1, 2021


Despite differences, we are all called to fulfill God’s plan

We all have a role in our Creator’s mission to build his kingdom.

Young, middle aged, old, Black, white, Hispanic, and on and on; the list of those called as missionary disciples who make up God’s earthly Christian family is a unique canvas of races, colors and creeds.

Each has the task of evangelizing, and many would argue there is no definitive way to use that charge to build the kingdom. But we must be open to appreciating others’ gifts as they fulfill this mission.

Pope Francis reminded us of that lesson during his Angelus address on Sept. 26 at the Vatican.

Reflecting on that day’s Gospel reading, the pope shared how John—speaking for the Apostles—approached Jesus, noting how they were upset that someone who was not part of their group was casting out demons in Jesus’ name.

“Jesus invites them not to hinder those who do good, because they contribute to the fulfillment of God’s plan,” the Holy Father said. “Then he admonishes them: instead of dividing people into good and bad, we are all called to be vigilant over our own hearts, lest we succumb to evil and bring scandal to others.”

Human nature, especially in today’s chaotic world, makes many of us uneasy when we see outsiders enter onto our terrain—even if they are successful. We feel threatened because someone is completing a task that we believe is exclusively meant for us. Reacting as the Apostles did, the pope reminds us, is wrong.

“They think they have the ‘exclusive right over Jesus,’ and that they are the only ones authorized to work for the kingdom of God. But in this way, they end up considering feeling that they are themselves privileged and consider others as outsiders, to the extent of becoming hostile toward them,” Pope Francis said.

Thinking in this way, the pope continued, tends to keep us at a distance from those who do not think like we do and is the root of many evils in history.

“But we need to be vigilant about closure in the Church, too. Because the devil, who is the divider—this is what the word ‘devil’ means, the one who divides—always insinuates suspicions to divide and exclude people,” the pope said. “He tempts with using cunning, and it can happen as with those disciples, who go so far as to end up excluding even someone who had cast out the devil himself!”

Times like this call us to humility and openness. Keeping others at a distance who are building the kingdom in their unique way and excluding them because they are not part of our group, the pope reminds us, is a sin.

“Let us ask for the grace to overcome the temptation to judge and to categorize, and may God preserve us from the ‘nest’ mentality, that of jealously guarding ourselves in the small group of those who consider themselves good,” the Holy Father said.

During his talk, the pope warned of groups that could potentially be unwelcoming to others—clergy with loyal followers, pastoral workers closed up among themselves, movements and associations in their own particular charism, and others.

When groups are closed and not welcoming, Pope Francis said, “all this runs the risk of turning Christian communities into places of separation and not of communion. The Holy Spirit does not want closedness; he wants openness, and welcoming communities where there is a place for everyone.”

Building community is at the heart of our mission as Catholics. And, now more than ever, we must allow the Spirit to open our minds and hearts to understanding God’s will for other disciples.

As we move forward in carrying out our charge, may we have the courage to do our part in building God’s kingdom, and allow others to use their gifts in fulfilling this mission as well.

—Mike Krokos

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