Just as Jesus was driven by the Spirit into the wilderness, remained there for 40 days and was tempted by Satan (Mk 1:12-13), so too the Church calls us to enter into a season of prayer and self-discipline to better appreciate his teachings and become more like him. PETE LINFORTH/PIXABAY

Spiritual Life

FATHER JEFF LOSEKE: Uniting ourselves with Jesus will overcome our divisions

Have you had the experience of going out to a favorite restaurant and finding yourself drawn to any number of items on the menu?

When I am trying to decide between one of my favorite dishes and something I’ve never had before, I often end up ordering the tried-and-true favorite. This experience highlights the reality that most of us do not necessarily know what we like, but instead we tend to like what we know.

When God established his covenant with Moses and the house of Israel, all they knew was their life in Egypt. In the desert wilderness, because they did not yet know the life to which God was calling them, the people yearned for their old, familiar way of life (Ex 14:11-12). They liked what they knew, even though all they knew was slavery.

God wanted to change that. He wanted to expand their knowledge of him and make them a nation especially his own (cf. Ex 19:5-6). By the laws that he gave them, God’s people would grow in their knowledge of him and become familiar with his ways. In the end, God desired that his law would be written upon their hearts and change their lives so that they would begin to attract others to himself (cf. Jer 31:33-34).

Many in Israel, however, failed to see that their vocation was to draw all people to God through their way of life. They saw themselves only as a people set apart from the world, and they built a culture – and even a Temple – that highlighted division and separation.

The culture of division was prevalent enough that some Greek converts asked Philip and Andrew – two Apostles with Greek names from Bethsaida, a village where most people knew how to speak Greek – to bring them to Jesus (Jn 12:20ff). Jesus knew, however, that it could not be through race, language or a way of life that all people would be drawn to him. A Greek Christ could no more save the whole world than a Jewish Messiah could. Rather, it would be as the Suffering Servant that Jesus would draw all people to Himself (cf. Heb 5:7-9), for everyone is acquainted with suffering.

Today, human beings continue to find themselves divided by race, language, religion, economic status, political party and so forth. It is far easier to associate with what we know: with those who look, sound, think and act like we do. This kind of division only breeds fear and hatred of others.

As God’s people, we must work to transform the cultures and institutions that continue to segregate and divide. We do this by uniting ourselves to Jesus upon the Cross and by identifying with those whom we know the least: the poor, the needy and the suffering. In the end, we will learn to know what we should like by loving those we take time to know.

Father Jeffery Loseke is pastor of St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Gretna.