Resurrection & the call to love beyond our differences

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a homily for the 6th Sunday of Easter

Photo Credit: John Lennon Memorial, Central Park, New York — Getty Images Signature, CanvaPro

Readings: Acts 10:24–48; Psalm 98:1–4, 1 John 4:7–16; John 15:9–17 (CCL)

As in inclusive Catholics, we are committed to the best of our tradition, to holding open doors to the sacred for one another, while also walking away from systems of patriarchy and oppression.

We are expressions of evolution — human and divine. We are faithful people living in an era of extreme ideological divides, sharing the world with diverse discerning people who are all questioning things like, “What is right?” “Where do I belong?” “How do I respond?” “Who is my neighbor?” and “Will we survive?”

These are questions that Peter must have grappled with. He, too, lived in a world rife with conflicting ideologies and cultural divides. He grew up being taught that his own people were pure, that their God was the right God, and that Gentiles were profane and idolatrous. This trait wasn’t unique to his people. The ancient histories of Mesopotamia, Israel, Greece, and Egypt were full of conflicts and war in the name of gods, land, wealth, natural resources, and cultural identities. It’s not very different from modern society. We just have more destructive armies and economic might, and our idols don’t look like golden calves or Mt. Olympus.

I think we can use that insight to connect a little more deeply with Peter when he confesses, “it is against our law for a Judean to associate with or visit a Gentile. But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean… God does not show favoritism. All who revere God and do right by God are accepted by God.”

Peter did his best as an early Christian to expand his understanding of God’s people. Through his epiphany, which came through a vision, he facilitated an experience of grace for his Judean companions, too. They were astounded to see that the Holy Spirit moved in another cultural group. It turns out, the Gentiles were not “others’’ who were idolatrous, unclean, lesser beings. They were shockingly co-equal in humanity, alive with the Holy Spirit. How could it be?!

And yet this experience is only a beginning. It is just one example of Love taking shape between people who have distrusted and spurned one another. It doesn’t mean that suddenly all Gentiles and Judeans were ready to be friends. It means that one small group gathered in a home, and dared to see God in one another. This is how Christianity began.

Our reading from the First Letter of John shares another scandalous message. “Everyone who loves is born of God and knows God… if we love one another, God lives in us…” God abides in our love for one another, and it is only in this love that we truly know God (1 Jn 4:7, 12).

Peter and his companions were familiar with love and with God, but their knowledge was not complete. Grace acted upon them, opening their senses and humbling them to recognize that the people they long accused of being morally bereft were truly good and Godly. I think this is a really important takeaway. We all need grace to show us when and where our understanding of love is limited. This is the call of the Gospel.

Think of Jesus who said, “if you love others who love you, what reward will you get? And if you only greet your own people, what are you doing more than others?” I think we often miss the point of that passage where he says, “love your enemies.”(Matt 5:34–38) Maybe he meant, love the people you think are your enemies. Only then can grace find us and show us ways of transformation, like what happens when Peter and Cornelius dare to love one another.

In our own torn world, we are called to the same acts of grace.

The first Christians had much to worry about, just as we do. In the early generations after Jesus’ execution, they were building a movement of hope for themselves and others, both because of and despite the imperial violence that killed Jesus. They gathered as marginalized communities in times of empire and oppression, shared in bread and wine, Jesus’ teachings, and holy friendship.

To be sure, there were no movements for diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging in Judea, Samaria, Rome, or Caesaria. Those concepts did not exist. The earliest Jesus followers were spreading unity through the power of a fresh Gospel, unifying their differences with neighbors in a new shared Christian identity.

Today, we have our own opportunity to grow in Love, one that knows it isn’t our Christian identity that makes us good and acceptable to God. It is our humanity, our Love, that does that. Love that God embodies in people of every race, gender, sexuality, religion, ethnicity, and ability.

When Paul said, “God does not show favoritism. All who revere God and do right by God are accepted by God,” Paul was not embracing diversity as we think of it now. He was saying, hey, we can decide to be Christians together.

While we can learn from Scripture and history, we always have to orient ourselves to what it means for us today. Today, we know that Catholicism has committed countless atrocities in the name of conversion and commitment to sameness, whether through inquisition or colonization or policing of sacraments. Many brands of Christianity (not just Catholicism) say, “all are welcome,” as long as you agree to think and act like us. That attitude misses the mark.

Love is trying to show us something much more expansive.

With open hearts, we, as inclusive Catholics, have the opportunity to see what we might call the Holy Spirit alive in people very different from us. We have the opportunity to cast aside sureties in exchange for curiosity. We get to revel in the beauty of God’s vast spectrum of creation, and not labor to fit everything (and everyone) into tiny ideologies.

We are invited to evolve again and again, in Love… Love that plants seeds of possibilities, whispering to us that where we see death, new life IS possible.

Resurrection happens when we dare hold open the doors to the sacred with the energy of our love and our lives… when we dare follow the Gospel toward collective care and repentance and repair, and co-creation of healthier future for all, in LOVE and sacred friendship.

What do you think?

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Angela Nevitt Meyer
Brownsburg Inclusive Catholic Community

Catholic priest (RCWP) all about Love & Belonging | Reproductive Dignity | 🌈 | Evolving Church | Healing Work | She/her