I love random facts! I find they are great conversation starters and help me to trigger and bridge past and seemingly unconnected memories together. Speaking of the subject of bridges, I recently learned that the world’s longest bridge is over 102 miles! Carrying trains this incredible engineering feat connects the cities of Nanjing and Shanghai.
Aside from being massive architectural projects and accomplishments, the daily function of a bridge is a little more mundane—it serves as a connection between two points that otherwise could not meet or communicate. In a similar way today I am going to share my thoughts on how I myself and all Catholics, and Christians in general, are called to act a bridge between God and humanity. Examining Scripture, Tradition, and evidence from a strictly logical standpoint, I put forth three reasons why all Christians need to be bridge-builders
1. For the Bible tells Me So: You do not have to look far in the New Testament before you discover examples of Jesus promoting unity and building relationships with traditional 1st century outsider groups. In John 4, Jesus encounters a Samaritan woman at the ancient water-cooler, the well of Jacob. Here is reaches out to a Samaritan who Jews ostracized during ancient times. Despite this Jesus provides her an offer of everlasting water. She readily exclaims, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water” (John 4:15).
The Gospel of St. Luke abounds with examples of Jesus ministering to outcasts and “building bridges” to all of humanity. I will list just a few: shepherds being invited to witness the birth of Christ (Luke 2:15-20), call of Levi the tax collector (Luke 5:27-32), forgiving the sinful woman (Luke 7:36-50, and sending out of the seventy-two disciples to minister to others (Luke 10: 1-10).
Finally, I want to share the instance in the Acts of the Apostles where possible discord over whether followers of Christ needed to be circumcised in the custom of Judaism. In Acts 15 the Council of Jerusalem took place and God provided unity in this affair by bestowing authority to Peter through the power of the Holy Spirit. According to the author of Acts the following happened:
After much debate had taken place, Peter got up and said to them, “My brothers, you are well aware that from early days God made his choice among you that through my mouth the Gentiles would hear the word of the gospel and believe.c 8And God, who knows the heart, bore witness by granting them the holy Spirit just as he did us.d 9He made no distinction between us and them, for by faith he purified their hearts.e 10Why, then, are you now putting God to the test by placing on the shoulders of the disciples a yoke that neither our ancestors nor we have been able to bear?f 11On the contrary, we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus,g in the same way as they.”* 12The whole assembly fell silent, and they listened while Paul and Barnabas described the signs and wonders God had worked among the Gentiles through them. (Acts 15:7-12).
In the midst of such authority silent reflection and pondering took place and unity flourished.
2. Follow Francis: Continuing on the theme of unity promoted by papal authority, Pope Francis on the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall told Christians to, “Build bridges of understanding and dialogue.” In the pope is a visible sign of the unity of the Catholic Church. We as Catholic look to the pope with honor and as a leader of the faith not because he tells us but because Jesus gave us the gift of the papacy.
Like Francis, the late Pope John Paul II promoted ecumenism [fancy word for promoting unity J) The Polish pontiff tells us in his encyclical letter Ut Unum Sint [On Commitment to Ecumenism],
Together with all Christ’s disciples, the Catholic Church bases upon God’s plan her ecumenical commitment to gather all Christians
into unity. Indeed, “the Church is not a reality closed in on herself. Rather, she is permanently open to missionary and ecumenical endeavor, for she is sent to the world to announce and witness, to make present and spread the mystery of communion which is essential to her, and to gather all people and all things into Christ, so as to be for all an ‘inseparable sacrament of unity’…The unity of all divided humanity is the will of God (nos. 5-6).
3. Brains, brains, brains: I was binge watching an episode of The Walk Dead [YES I DID JUST TRANSITION FROM THE POPE TO ZOMBIES!!] a couple summers ago and took an important lesson from the show. In dire situations humans will work together to survive despite coming from various backgrounds. Police officers, farmers, and pizza delivery boys were able to unite for a common objective [namely to avoid being turned into a zombie] and I came away from the show thinking: should all people, in particular Christians unite? From a strictly logical standpoint people tend to be happier when working together as a team. This is true for me. At work I am more fulfilled when I work to serve the rest of my co-workers and assist throughout the day as opposed to having a self-serving mentality. Moreover, the old adage “two heads are better than one” is true when it comes to uniting and forging improved relationships.
Please do not interpret my urging for all Christians to be bridge-makers as a full on endorsement of compromising your Christians values completely. There are some non-negotiables I hold as a Catholic-Christian. I will not sell out my faith and I believe in the value of life at all stages. That being said, when it comes to me interacting people with completely different world outlooks
from myself I need to exercise patience, clarity in my thoughts, and charity in my dialogue to help others see the value in my positions. I also need to be humble enough to see things from others’ perspectives as well. Bridge-building is not an easy process—it is long and toilsome. With the gift of understanding and patience from the Holy Spirit such dialogue is possible!