It had been about a year since I moved into my city and I was still hopping around from parish to parish looking for a place to call home. One parish was becoming a favorite, and I started to feel more comfortable each time I attended Mass there.
On one occasion, I went to the parish and sat down in a pew diagonally behind a woman. As I knelt down, she turned and looked at me.
She then grabbed her purse and with a huff, marched out of the pew and across the aisle.
My head spun in confusion.
Did that just happen? Why did she leave? Did I do something? Even though I knew I wasn’t sitting very close behind her, was I still too close?
I wracked my brain for an answer. Coming up short, I turned to find the woman so that I could offer up a smile and maybe mend any nonverbal communication that may have been broken. But when we locked eyes across the aisle, she once again delivered an angry glare letting me know that I was not welcome at that church.
Jesus makes clear in today’s Gospel that we are one, just as the Father is in Him and He is in the Father. And not only are we one, but Jesus desires for all of us to be one with Him and the Father in Heaven. This calls for unity not gate-keeping, welcome not hostility, love not fear.
We know that perfect love drives out all fear (1 John 4:18) and Jesus generously gives us not just any love, but the immense love in which the Father loves Him: the Holy Spirit. Love is the power of the Holy Trinity at work in us towards our neighbor. It is the “greatest social commandment” (Catechism of the Catholic Church sections 1889, 2196).
Let us work efficaciously toward seeing every person as another Christ with whom we are one.
Join us in praying this prayer for racial healing.
Chika Anyanwu is a Catholic evangelist based in Southern California and is also the author of My Encounter: How I Met Jesus In Prayer. She has a deep love for Jesus, loves her beautiful Nigerian family, and is a firm believer that if coffee is good, there’s no need for cream or sugar. Find out more here.