Living the Gospel – May 10, 2020

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Do not let your hearts be troubled.
You have faith in God; have faith also in me.
In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places.
If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?

Many years ago, when I was a young girl, I knew that my extended family belonged to religious denominations whose doctrines often conflicted with each other. Even our town reflected a cultural approach to religion – there was the Catholic cemetery and the “Protestant” cemetery (an attractive cemetery across the street)! Catholic children were excused from school to sing at funeral Masses – but they were not allowed to attend Baccalaureate celebrations at their high school graduations because these were held in non-Catholic churches. My aunt became a Catholic during her last few years of life so she “could be with her husband when she died.” But why am I writing about all this when those days are behind us?

Well, they are mostly behind us… When I look at today’s world, I still see religions, denominations and clans misunderstanding, or worse yet, fighting each other, and I fear that the good works needed to keep this earth and God’s peoples safe and healthy will be withheld as a result. In contrast, I remember a talk by the Archbishop of Baghdad, a dual rite Discalced Carmelite, during the early days of the Iraqi war. He described how Catholics and Muslims lived together peaceably from the 1600s when the Carmelites first arrived and how everyone was welcomed to shelter in their church during the devastating bombing of Baghdad. This mutual respect and caring have continued. About the time the Archbishop was welcomed at his visit to the USA, a world-wide visit of the relics of St. Therese of Lisieux was welcomed with great joy in Iraq. And in my childhood, I remember a Presbyterian minister coming to visit and pray with my Lutheran grandfather each month during his final illness. I still remember my father listening to me and trusting me enough to allow me to be baptized a Catholic when I asked him for permission. I was only seven years old. Jesus’ people, who were cited in this Gospel, were from different ancestries and different traditions. But are we not all children of one Father? Do we not all believe in the Christ, no matter the name we call him? Surely there are enough houses for us all.

Dorothy Hathway Forbes, OCDS, CSJA