FAITH AND CULTURE | Walking together for the common good

I suspect that many of us find ourselves asking questions about our world today. We seem to be experiencing incredible turmoil and unrest in our local, regional, national and global communities. Whether dealing with natural catastrophes, human brokenness or sinful actions, we can't seem to find a way out of this current malaise.

Recent natural disasters in Florida and the Caribbean, the tragedy in Las Vegas and our own local pursuits for greater racial equity are but indications of what troubles our human heart and spirit. We easily recognize the pain, hurt and profound questions that these and similar heartbreaks present, but we aren't always able to find the right answer or appropriate response. Even in conversations with family and friends, we often fall short of finding comforting words that provide expressive consolation.

Our common struggle to find meaningful words, expressions and directions to what feels like an endless flow of disappointments and hurt can quickly lead us to immediate reactions, cynicism and even despair. Yet, we know intuitively that the healing and reconciliatory attitudes and actions have to go beyond visceral reactions. We know from personal experience how important it is to take the time to find the calm amidst the storms.

In this spirit of contemplation, already we can see community members finding public ways to model the deeper calling to prayer, compassionate action and nonviolent protests that pivot us away from further social divisions and brokenness. In their prayers and actions, we recognize our prophetic vocation to be agents of healing, reconciliation and social transformation.

How each of us will choose to respond — or not — to the deeper call for justice, healing and reconciliation will no doubt tap into our own comfort levels and general social experiences. For some, this might mean having to be more self-aware and honest about our prejudices and unconscious biases. Or it might mean confronting the fear that often holds us back from pursuing justice more actively and visibly.

Social sciences show that no individual or group is exempt from building barriers and obstacles to greater inclusion and solidarity. We also know that good things happen when we transcend ourselves and reach out in kindness and truth. Without having to ignore the color of our skin, socio-economic status or cultural group to which we belong, we continue to find ways to support and care for one another — even if our efforts aren't always void of human imperfections.

For us Catholics, in particular, the demands of justice, social reconciliation and solidarity inevitably lead us to a deeper encounter and embrace with those around us. As Pope Francis reminds us in his apostolic exhortation, "The Joy of The Gospel," "the Gospel tells us constantly to run the risk of a face-to-face encounter with others, with their physical presence which challenges us, with their pain and their pleas, with their joy which infects us in our close and continuous interactions" (88).

I would suggest to you, today, that this face-to-face encounter with others that our faith demands of us will begin with a commitment to walk together in search of the common good. Like Jesus in the Gospel stories, we will have to go into the streets and places that perhaps are not always in our immediate inclination. There, in our walking together, we will find the grace and response we will need for the long road ahead (Luke 24: 13-35).

Orozco is executive director of Intercultural and Interreligious Affairs for the Archdiocese of St. Louis. 

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