July 1, 2011

Faith, Hope and Charity / David Siler

A glimpse at the kingdom of God

David SilerWe often think about the kingdom of God as some far-off place that we will get to experience as our eternal reward when our time here on Earth ends.

I’d like to suggest that God’s kingdom is here and now, and can be witnessed and experienced when our hearts are open enough. I had one of these experiences just this week.

June 20 was “World Refugee Day.” Our amazing and dedicated Catholic Charities Refugee Resettlement staff, and their volunteer high school and college-age refugee ambassadors, put together a wonderful dinner and celebration to mark this occasion. This first-ever event hosted at the Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara Catholic Center in Indianapolis was attended by about 250 people.

As I looked around the room, I began to experience an awareness that this group gathered together in one place for a couple of hours was a great representation of the kingdom of God.

Among our guests were men, women and children from Iraq, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Burma, Eritrea and other countries that I had never even heard of nor could even pronounce.

I began to consider the Scripture that tells us that God created human beings in God’s own image and likeness.

Wow, is God diverse!

In our small representation of the world that evening, we had skin colors of nearly every shade, facial features of many shapes and sizes, straight hair, curly hair, no hair at all and dozens of languages being spoken—just to name a few of the differences that could be seen and heard.

The cultural, religious and lifestyle differences would have been too numerous to count. And all of these differences are a reflection of the God who created each of us.

Father Greg Boyle, the Jesuit priest who works with gang members in Los Angeles, often uses the expression, “our parishes that are hermitically sealed” to describe the lack of diversity in the vast majority of our Catholic parishes.

This lack of diversity can lead many of us to the notion that we are like most of the rest of the world in terms of how we look and how we live in the world. This can also lead us to have a limited notion of God, whose diversity and vastness has no end.

Among the very few direct commands that Jesus gave us was to “welcome the stranger” (Mt 25:35). Jesus said that when we do this, we welcome him. Our parishes, homes, workplaces and our country are great places to live out this command.

Catholic Charities Indianapolis has been welcoming Jesus in strangers from all over the world in central Indiana for nearly 30 years. Thanks to many of you, these people are welcomed and helped to make a life where they can fully express all that God has created them to be.

Most of us had ancestors who made a similar journey to this great country where we have the profound privilege of outwardly expressing our gratitude to God.

Thank you, God!

(David Siler is the executive director of the archdiocesan Secretariat for Catholic Charities and Family Ministries. E-mail him at dsiler@archindy.org.)

Local site Links: