Starting Point
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Issue Date:  November 11, 2005

Starting Point


As I rode along in the air-conditioned tour bus, I saw them sitting in doorways, chatting on street corners, hurrying into shops, resting on benches. I wondered what thoughts were running through their minds. Were they worried about cancer in their parents, warts on the bottom of their feet, what they were going to eat that night, if their boss was going to yell at them or if their spouse was having an affair.

I wondered about all the things I could think about or imagine. But then I wondered if they had thoughts I could never guess. Could these people halfway around the world from where I grew up and lived out my life be so different from me that I could not even conceive of at least some of what could run through their minds on a rainy Sunday afternoon?

Conventional wisdom says we are not so different from one another. We all want to be loved. We all want our bellies full and bodies warm. We all want to die happy and quickly. Yes, these may be how much we are alike, but is it possible there are great chasms between cultures? Is there something in the Muslim or Hindu, Asian or African experience that makes people so different that we will always, at least on some level, be strangers?

Christians, perhaps arrogantly, assert that the life, death and resurrection of Jesus have an authentic significance for all human beings across all the great divides of experience, belief, prosperity and poverty, climate and culture. Yet, every one of us who will share in the Eucharist this weekend knows that some unnamed but real person in Africa will starve to death tonight while we will eat too much.

We assert that in Jesus there is no Greek or Jew, male or female. I wondered though, as I looked at all these people and as a few looked back at me, what that really means.

Fr. George R. Szews is the pastor of the Newman Parish in Eau Claire, Wis., and author of Everyday People, Everyday Grace, ACTA Publications.

National Catholic Reporter, November 11, 2005

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