My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Diversity. Equity. Inclusion. These are the buzzwords that currently dominate the scene on college campuses and in corporate America. Many universities and businesses have Offices for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). Working for diversity, equity, and inclusion could be good, bad, or neutral, depending on how those terms are defined and implemented.
Diversity refers to the ways that people are different, including the different characteristics that make one group or individual different from another. Equity strives for fair treatment, justice, and equal opportunity for everyone. Inclusion seeks to make everyone feel welcome to contribute and participate with others in a group. All of those are noble-sounding goals, but they can also be used to promote immoral activities and to exclude people with views and beliefs that are not accepted by those who currently wield power.
In some ways diversity is not so hard to come by in our world today. Gather any group of people, even those with the same skin color and belonging to the same religion, and there will be a variety of political views and different opinions that will divide the group.
The real challenge today is to build unity amidst all this diversity. In the priestly prayer that Jesus offered during the Last Supper, Our Lord prayed to His heavenly Father for all the people of the world “so that they may all be one, as
you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me. And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them even as you loved me” (John 17:21-23).
True unity comes through faith in Jesus and in the love that we share as children of God.
In contrast to the unity that comes from God, who brings people together in love, division comes from the Devil, who seeks to divide people as adversaries into opposing camps. The antidote to the Devil’s wiles is to become holy by growing in God’s grace. The place to start, then, is with one’s own heart.
The very first words of Jesus’ public ministry were to call people to repentance: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15). Unless we start by repenting and asking forgiveness of our sins, we cannot live the Gospel message fully.
The first four declarations of our Fourth Diocesan Synod in 2017 addressed the steps for becoming faithful followers of Christ. The first declaration of our Fourth Diocesan Synod states that the mission of our diocese is “is to build a fervent community of intentional and dedicated missionary disciples of the Risen Lord and steadfast stewards of God’s creation who seek to become saints.” This mission will be carried out by implementing the Four Pillars of Discipleship and Stewardship, namely, hospitality, prayer, formation, and service.
The second synodal declaration quotes Pope St. John Paul II in saying that “all pastoral initiatives must be set in relation to holiness” and thus we will invite people to a life of discipleship and stewardship.
The third synodal declaration says, “The art of growing in God’s grace is the key to growth in the Church. Building a culture of growth in the Church starts with inviting people to experience the love of Jesus Christ. … This growth looks not only to build up the number of followers of Jesus Christ, but also — and more importantly — for Christ’s followers to grow in the depth of their relationship with Jesus Christ and in their commitment to observe all that he has commanded us to do.”
Noting that having a personal relationship as a disciple of Jesus “means to accept Jesus Christ as one’s Lord and Savior,” the fourth declaration of our Fourth Diocesan Synod points to the ecclesial dimension of each Christian in relation to the Church, saying, “Catholic discipleship refers to a committed approach to living a Christian life within the Catholic Church.”
The Second Vatican Council taught that God wants the Church to be “a sign and instrument both of a very closely knit union with God and of the unity of the whole human race” (Lumen Gentium, 1).
Thus, we can see that true unity involves an incremental progression of spreading Christ’s love, starting with the personal conversion and faith of each individual Christian, fostering the practice of the faith in one’s own family, living a Christian life within the Catholic Church, and then extending that faith and love into society by putting the faith into practice and giving witness to the Gospel in the ordinary activities of everyday life at work, in school, and wherever one interacts with others in the world.
May God give us this grace. Amen.