Veronica Carswell Photo by Ruane Remy

Division hurts the Christian body [2015 Friars' Essay 2nd place]

By  Veronica Marie Carswell, Catholic Register Special
  • January 29, 2015

Editor’s note: this is the second-place essay in the annual contest for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity sponsored by The Catholic Register and the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement-Graymoor. Veronica Marie Carswell is a student at Toronto's Don Bosco Secondary School.

In a good world, everyone would be accepted and respected despite their differences. In a perfect world, everyone would be accepted and respected because of their differences.

Our world is not perfect. Differences create barriers between people, between nation and between religions. However, this is all the more reason to start by uniting those closest to us, between denominations. As Pope Francis recently stated, “Divisions (between Christians) wound Christ’s body (and) impair the witness which we are called to give to Him before the world. How hypocritical it would be to call for unity between religions if we are quarrelling within our own!"

In Jesus’ time, Samaritans and Jews did not get along. They worshipped the same God but disagreed on how to worship Him. In many ways, Samaritans and Jews could be considered an ancient example of denominations within Christianity. Jesus as a Jew should have discriminated against the Samaritan woman, if He had followed His culture. In strict accordance to His time, He should not even have spoken to her. By asking for a drink, He showed a fellowship between them that was unheard of at the time. Jesus disregarded the miniscule differences between them when He reached out to her.

This is in line with today’s world, where Christian denominations vary from times and locations, each culture adding their own flair to create Christianity. The differences between Catholics and Pentecostals are only as diverse as Samaritans and Jews. However, Christian unity is not just about denominations.

As many business owners will tell you, reputation is everything. Any piece of information about someone is stored in a folder in your mind on that person. Then, when you see that person, that folder opens in your mind and you instantly remember everything you have heard about them. All these pieces of information make up their reputation. It is a natural human instinct to create these folders but that does not mean we should allow them to guide our decisions.

A person’s reputation depends on many things including the point of view of the information given and the context, or lack thereof. If someone were to be in court, you may automatically assume him to be a criminal but he might have been innocent or it might have been for something as simple as a traffic ticket. Instantly your perception of him changes. Jesus understood this and reached out, breaking past the barrier of reputation and choosing to reach out to the woman because she was simply that. A woman to be saved.

This one passage can teach Catholics and indeed all Christians much about how Jesus calls us to live. Jesus calls us to reach out to everyone, from people similar to people different. He also calls us to break through reputations to get to know the people behind the gossip. If Catholics and indeed everyone else practised these simple lessons, the world would be a much kinder place.