The Beauty in the Other

Last week I went to what I thought was a Catholic Theology on Tap, but as it turns out, “Pub Theology” is not the same thing as Theology on Tap. Pub Theology was a local interfaith group that met to discuss their various religions in not a “safe” space, but a “brave” and “open” space.

Not going to lie, my first reaction upon realizing that this wasn’t a Catholic event was, “I’ve made a grave mistake and need to find an excuse to leave ASAP.” I mean, I’m Catholic and I don’t want to change religions, so what am I doing here at a table with some Protestants, Jews, and Hindus, discussing religion? We sound like the beginning of a bad joke!

Then as we began going over the rules and goals of Pub Theology, I realized how wrong I was. This group was not about trying to force your religion onto others, it was about realizing that we have more in common than we think. We all live out our faiths by spreading God’s love and striving to do what is right. Along with being respectful and trying to understand the other person, our goal was to get to the point where we could say, “Here is the beauty that I find in the other” and not “This is why I am better than them.”

In today’s Gospel,  Jesus performs a miracle on the Holy Sabbath, which went against Jewish culture. As Catholics, we think that Jesus did the right thing by performing this miracle. He not only saved the man from physical death but from being “dead” to the world around him due to his illness. Still, in that time period and setting, it was scandalous! It was unheard of, unthinkable!

Instead of being in awe of his miracle and feeling joy that he had just saved a person’s life, “the “Jews began to persecute Jesus because he did this on the Sabbath” (John 5:16). If we had been there, can we honestly say that we would find the beauty in Jesus’ choice? Or would we have said, “He worked on a Sunday and I don’t, so that makes me better than him.”

You see, Jesus went against what the Pharisees preached and they held it against him, regardless of his life-giving act. They would rather ignore all the good that he had done because they could not see past the fact that he was not a perfect Jewish man. I think that if I were there, I would have had an inner struggle on whether or not it was right to work on the Sabbath. It would have conflicted with my beliefs, but I like to think that in the end, I would have been able to say that I admired Jesus for his action to preserve life.

You see, the idea of American culture is about the mixing of religions, backgrounds, and practices, yet we have come to the conclusion that America’s melting pot is full and no longer needs anything else.  Quite the opposite is true. We need to remember that no matter where we go in the world, not everyone has the same beliefs as we do. Regardless of different beliefs, there is always something we can learn from one another. Growing up, we learn from the people around us, so why would we not continue to learn from each other as adults?

Today I want to point out that God is not asking us to coexist, because coexisting is not community, just the way tolerance is not love and listening is not understanding. Instead, we should listen without judgment or argument, so that we can hear and fully respect their human dignity as a child of God. Each and every day, Our Heavenly Father calls us to learn from one another so that we may find the beauty in the other.

For more information on interfaith groups and Interfaith Days of Prayer in your community, contact your local diocese.

Veronica Alvarado is a born and bred Texan currently living in Michigan. Since graduating from Texas A&M University, Veronica has been published in the Catholic Diocese of Austin’s official newspaper, Catholic Spirit, as well as other local publications. She now works as the Content Specialist in Diocesan’s Web Department.