19 Jul 2009
“For [Jesus] is our peace, He who made both one and broke down the dividing wall of enmity, through His flesh ... thus establishing peace” (Eph. 2:14, 15) In the name …
Fr. Randy Calvo
Want to hear something kind of gross? Our skin, for all of us, is covered with bacteria. No matter how much we wash, it’s covered with bacteria. Some good, some not so good, but bacteria nonetheless. And on top of that, there is an assortment of mini-ecosystems on our skin all depending on location. Some bacteria thrive in arid surroundings and others in more tropical-like surroundings. The most diverse location on our bodies for these bacteria to live is the middle forearm where 44 species of bacteria have been found to grow. The least diverse patch of skin on our body is behind the ear where still some 19 species of bacteria are found. There’s hundreds of these species of tiny living creatures covering our bodies, every day, all day, even right now.
These tiny creatures in their tiny ecosystems don’t faze me at all if I don’t think about them. When you do think about them, a lot, and see pictures of these ugly little creatures, that’s when people can develop debilitating phobias, and for no reason. It’s kind of like my wedding band. I never liked the feel of jewelry. That’s why I bought the thinnest wedding ring I could find way back in 1988. It didn’t bother me when I didn’t think about it, but when I did the ring bothered me. Then when I discovered that it wouldn’t come off of my finger too easily, it really started to bother me. That’s why Sharon finally let me stop wearing the thing. She said taking it off was better than hearing all the whining. The opposite of the whining, I suppose, is expressed quite well by the American theologian Reinhold Neibuhr. He wrote the Serenity Prayer, which has nothing to do with Frank Costanza’s “Serenity Now!” on Seinfeld. He prays: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
Why do we cause ourselves so much distress over things that are not real problems? With so many real quandaries in our lives, why create fake ones? My daughters played AAU basketball this year. Every time I walked into another gym in another city to watch another series of basketball games I inevitably mentioned that I never thought when I was younger that I would be spending this much time in a gym. Sharon – very athletic. Me – last one picked for the team in gym class. At the last series of games up in Burlington, VT, after weeks and weeks of basketball, that overlapped with weeks of Frontier softball and track, I was just about all sportsed-out. My mind wandered during some of the games. I remember at one point watching these girls walk over to their court to get ready for their game. One was Caucasian, one African-American, and one Oriental. It made me smile. Only in America, I thought to myself. In so many places in the world different equals conflict. Just pick-up the newspaper on any given day. But here were three young ladies who couldn’t have cared less about their differences. Why do some people create unnecessary problems so that difference equals division?
The madness of choosing to focus unproductively on the fraction of a percent of physical differences among us rather than on all that unites us is made crystal clear in tomorrow’s 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing on the moon. 10:56:20pm tomorrow night marks the moment when 40 years earlier Neil Armstrong stepped off the ladder of the lunar module and stepped onto the surface of the moon with those indelible words: “That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.” The whole world was watching because this wasn’t only an American achievement. It was a human achievement. Many of the astronauts who had the honour of looking down upon the earth from outer space realized from that unique perspective how similar we all are. Those pictures of earth from hundreds of thousands of miles away inspired the poet Archibald MacLeish, a past resident of Conway, to write on Christmas Day 1968: “To see the Earth as it truly is, small and blue and beautiful in that eternal silence where it floats, is to see ourselves as riders on the Earth together, brothers on that bright loveliness in the eternal cold – brothers who know now they are truly brothers.” Wouldn’t it be sad if only when we possibly discover some other civilizations out there in space, beings extremely different than us, that we then would begin to see ourselves as so much the same? Why would we require something completely different than us to make us realize how we are so much the same? Why can’t we do that now? Why can’t we ignore the things we can’t do anything about, like all of our differences, and be more like those three girls walking together toward their basketball game, so that we can concentrate on how much the same we are? How much hatred and violence do we have to bring upon ourselves before we realize how futile and insane these confrontations are?
Think back to what Maryanna read this morning from Ephesians. Paul is talking about the fact that in the church differences have disappeared because all of us become the same in Christ. He talks about the differences and divisions that once existed between Jews and Gentiles, but Christ is “he who made both one.” What a powerful and inspiring set of five words these are: “He who made both one.” Christ, church, our faith, help us to see beyond the differences and to notice that as Conway’s poet once put it we are “brothers who know now they are truly brothers.” If we can let ourselves get past the differences we can’t change, and don’t need to change, then we can begin to see each other for the things that matter. The humanity of Jesus shares God with all people, and as Paul brilliantly notes: “[Christ] broke down the dividing wall of enmity through His flesh.” Jesus doesn’t come particularly as Jew or Gentile, male or female. He comes as a human being to heal divisions and to foster unity, not uniformity, but unity among human beings. 40 years after the first walk on the moon, may we like those astronauts come to realize how alike we are, and for this we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen. (+)