“Lord,” she replied, “even the dogs
under the table eat the family’s leavings.” Mark 7:24
I grew up in an Irish and Italian neighborhood. Since only the tiniest drop of either bloodline flows through me, I had no preference for either group. The truth is that I envied them both, especially on St. Patrick’s and St. Joseph’s Days when my Irish and Italian friends celebrated their heritage with great flourish. For the most part, I am French Canadian and there was no designated day for me to do the same. Though my family celebrated rich traditions which are the direct result of my ethnicity, as a child, I longed for a more colorful and universal display. Later, new neighbors of African American dissent moved nearby and we became fast friends. Suddenly, I wasn’t alone in my envy of those whose ethnicity was celebrated.
This childhood disappointment evolved into a lifetime of effort to honor the plethora of ethnic differences which make our human family the treasure it is. That disappointment also fueled my effort to work around the numerous other differences which often separate us. Perhaps it was providential that I spent my career working with children. My classroom provided the perfect forum in which to honor both our personal uniqueness and our common qualities. Though I left my classroom behind long ago, I find that the lessons I learned there regarding God’s “Open Door Policy” are more important than ever these days.
Welcoming God, it seems that wherever we are we manage to separate ourselves into differing factions. Help me and all of my sisters and brothers to welcome one another into the moments of our lives just as you welcome us.
O Holy Father, protect with your name which you have given me
that they may be one even as we are one.
Now, however, I come to you; I say all this while I am
still in the world, that they may share my joy completely.
From John 17:11, 13
When I was I child, I vacillated between wanting to be just like everyone else and wanting to be completely different. Being like others took on great importance when I felt left out of things. Still, when I felt so much like everyone else that I blended into the crowd and was lost, I wanted to stand out in some way. Fortunately, I came to realize that each of us holds a special place among our fellow humans because we are alike and because we have unique gifts to add to the mix.
During the days which followed that first Easter, Jesus spent a good deal of time revealing his similarities with and differences from the rest of us. Jesus lived and laughed, suffered and died in keeping with our human experience. Jesus also performed inexplicable miracles and then rose from the dead in great contrast to the human experiences of his contemporaries. In both instances, Jesus brought great joy to the people he was given to love. It seems to me that we find true joy when we do as Jesus did by using our likenesses and our differences to enrich the people we have been given to love.
Loving God, Jesus prayed that he might share his joy with the rest of us completely. Fill us with the same love which inspired Jesus, that we may share the same joy in everything we say and do.