Inclusion (Part 1 of 3)

June 4, 2012

Food for Thought, General

I want to be noticed!

The Catholic understanding of the Trinity is all about inclusion.  The Father loves the Son.  The Holy Spirit is that love and through that love we all belong. I am not very good about the math part of the Trinity.  The whole 1+1+1=1 thing is confusing to me but I do like to focus on the idea that I get to be included!  I read once that when we make the sign of the cross – we are placing ourselves into that Holy Trinity – we are asking to be included.   Inclusion is part of our faith and should be how we strive to live the way Christ has taught us.

Inclusion is a frequent topic in the area of disability outreach.   Deacon Sean Curtain, director of outreach for people with disabilities in the Archdiocese, recently  relayed to me three very important wants that he sees in all people, not just those with disabilities. All of these “wants” have to do with inclusion. One definition of inclusion is a sense of belonging: feeling respected, valued for who you are; feeling a level of supportive energy and commitment from others.  In homilies on inclusion he says, “We all walk around carrying three signs.

I want to be noticed,

I want to be heard,

I want to be loved.”

It is sad to see how often these very basic needs are not met in our day to day actions of our work, in our parishes and even in our families.

This is the first of  a three part blog where I hope to expand on this lesson of inclusion.

 

I want to be noticed! 

Our young people, and not so young people, have found creative ways of getting noticed.  Sometimes it is by hair and clothing style, other times it is through social media like facebook and twitter. The sad thing about the “virtual” experience of getting notice through social media is that it lacks a true human interaction.   From our earliest beginnings we strive for ways to be noticed.  Babies cry to get noticed and the terrible twos are a perfect example of some of those not so perfect ways of getting attention.  As we grow,  we learn to be noticed for our achievements of knowledge or ability.  Hopefully we come to realize that God’s love for us isn’t dependent on our achievements. God sees us. He sees us even when we are not at our best.  He loves us anyway!

It is through Christ’s example that we need to learn the importance of acknowledging and affirming others – of seeing them. I don’t believe I have ever read in any of the gospels that when someone turned to Christ – he ignored them. Imagine Jesus turning to someone and saying, ” I am just too busy right now, why don’t you take that up with Andrew.”

I love the story of Zacchaeus.  He even climbs a tree to get Jesus’ attention.

Now a man there named Zacchaeus, who was a chief tax collector and also a wealthy man, was seeking to see who Jesus was; but he could not see him because of the crowd, for he was short in stature. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree in order to see Jesus, who was about to pass that way. When he reached the place, Jesus looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house. “And he came down quickly and received him with joy. (Luke 19: 2-6)

What I love even more than Zacchaeus’ persistence in getting noticed – is Christ’s reaction.  “He received him with joy!”

How many times have we found ourselves ignoring the child pulling on our pant leg, avoiding answering an e-mail or failing to “pick up” when someone calls.   Like Christ – when someone is persistent in getting our attention – it is because they have that same desire – I want to be noticed!

Some people can be annoying – I imagine that short, pushy, greedy Zacchaeus was no exception. We all know a pushy “church lady”or a needy relative. But Christ didn’t ignore Zacchaeus. Instead He received him with joy and because of Christ’s acknowledgment – of seeing Zacchaeus – his life was changed forever.

Christ also noticed those who didn’t stand out or work to get noticed.

Sometimes this very simple phrase gets missed as we read of the story of the man born blind.

As he passed by he saw a man blind from birth. (John 9:1)

The man did nothing to get his attention, but Jesus noticed him.  He didn’t just pass by, he noticed that someone needed help.  Almost every day, I drive by someone situated near the freeway exit with a sign that says they are homeless.  My first reaction is to avert my eyes.  I don’t want to see them – it reminds me of the debt I owe.  The debt I owe to God and all His people for the wonderful gifts I have received.  If I don’t see people in need – I won’t feel that guilt.  Even short of seeing someone who is homeless – I avert my eyes or avoid others who may be needy.  At various times, friends and family (and myself) have gone through a crisis and need more attention.  Have I taken the time to see their need  or is helping them just not on my agenda?

Sometimes that debt we owe is more personal.  I remember a time when I let down a friend who needed my help, when I would see her it reminded me of my own failings and I found I would avoid her to avoid feeling my own inadequacies.  I am learning to be more straightforward now and deal directly when I fail others by asking for forgiveness. This repairs the discord in my relationships and I start “seeing” them once again.

Jesus even saw people most of us would like to avoid.  On hearing about Jesus – Nathaniel insulted him by saying “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” If I someone was that hostile to me, I think I would tend to avoid them, but instead Jesus complements Nathaniel.

“Jesus saw Nathaniel coming toward him and said of him, “Here is a true Israelite, there is no duplicity on him.”  John 1:47.

How much better would our interactions be if, when we are insulted by someone, we truly see them (see their pain and their need) and throw them a complement?  The result is that hearts would be softened toward us and turned toward Christ.

Ultimately, we know that our inclusion is with God, but it is our job to be Christ for each other.

Here is a challenge for this week:  Take the time to really see a friend, a coworker, child,  or elderly person.   Reflect on inclusion and if you are responding in a Christ -like manner.  Are your work, church, and family structures set up to be inclusive to all?

, , , , , , , ,

About Sharon O'Connell-Wilson

I am a wife to my husband Dave and mother to my children Courtney and Gabe. I have a degree in education and have worked as a teacher, in advertising, radio, retail buyer and in youth advocacy – I even rode an elephant in the circus once! Currently I work as the Respect Life Coordinator for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. I am a “cradle” Catholic who didn’t really know my faith until my adulthood. On fire with my faith and love for God I dove into parish life at Divine Mercy Catholic Church in Faribault, Minnesota. Once I dove in, I began to realized I needed to learn how to swim! Patient priests and friends as well as the Archbishop Harry J. Flynn Catechetical Institute helped me to learn the strokes. I love talking about my faith and learning more about the great gift of being Catholic.

View all posts by Sharon O'Connell-Wilson
  • Kathyschneeman

    You are so correct, Sharon. We all need to work on the inclusion of others. And respecting everyone as Deacon Sean states. Thank you!

  • Dennis McGrath

    Sharon: This is wonderful commentary — preaching really and I was moved by your faith and outreach. The story of Nathaniel reminded me of my dad, Jim McGrath, who spent his life in the Mens Clothing business. He bounced back from alcoholism, his wife’s death at too early an age and my brother’s death at age 31 in no small part because of his unwavering Catholic faith. When a friend or customer would make a negative or even nasty comment about someone, my dad always replied to him: “I’m sorry you feel that way because so-and-so speaks quite highly of you.” That always turned around the tenor of the criticism.

    Blessings to you and to the critical work you do for the Church,

    Dennis

    • Sharon

      Thanks Dennis. You made my day! And thanks for all your encouragement for my writing.