Olympics showed we are all one

By Father Joseph Breighner

The Olympic Games in Rio are now over. Ironically, what moved me the most was the parade of the athletes at the beginning of the games. As I watched these hundreds of athletes from so many countries I just had this recurring thought: “We are all one. We all look the same.”

I cheered for “our athletes,” especially Michael and Katie. But I really cheered for all humanity. How could we not look at this parade of humanity and not realize that we are all one?
I had to wait until the end of the games to write about the beginning of the games because there was always the possibility that “something might happen.” And that’s precisely the point of this column. How can we humans terrorize and kill each other, and not recognize our common identity?
We have allowed even our religions to become reasons to divide us. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could all at least agree on one religious belief that God created humans in his own image and likeness? We not only share a common humanity, but also a common divinity. Sadly, rather than being able to rally around a statement of how special we all are, many would think such a thought to be preposterous.
Jesus said that we “have eyes but do not see.” That we are all one is plainly visible. Why do we allow thoughts in our minds to separate us?
The answer, sadly, is that we have been trained to trust our minds more than our hearts.
I think of some of the heartfelt words of Jesus: “How I would have loved to gather you as a mother hen gathers her chicks, but you would not let me.” What a tender statement of God who became human to save humanity from itself. And yet we would not let God make us one again.
Jesus said:“The Father and I will make our home in you.” Rather than look “out there” for God, we have only to look within.
And how could we ever forget the words of St. Paul: “It is no longer I who live but Christ lives in me”. As I’ve said before, Christ didn’t just come to bring divinity to us, but to bring divinity out of us.”
A story that I’ve told in many a retreat is about God consulting the smartest man in the world and asking him: “Where can I hide that humans will never find me?” And the smartest man in the world replied: “Hide in the human heart. They’ll never look for you there.”
Obviously, God doesn’t want to hide from us. It is we who have hidden God. We focus on what separates us from each other, instead of what unites us. But what if we humans of all faiths went through our various scriptures and focused on the passages that unite us? What if we focused on the most loving, the most unifying passages? For those who may have no particular faith, go through the great philosophers and thinkers of all time. Focus on the words that unite us, that inspire our best actions and beliefs.
As I saw all those athletes I realized that, had I not been a priest, I could have been a grandparent to one of these young people. And perhaps that is what I’m appealing to in this column. The role of parent involves discipline and training, as well as love and care. But the role of grandparent is mostly unconditional love. Grandparents get to spoil the grandchildren.
In our faith, we get to call God our Father. But I would like to invite all of us to think of God as Grandfather and Grandmother. That image would allow all of humanity to move beyond what separates us to what unites us. Why not try that? What we’ve done so far doesn’t seem to be working too well!

Read more commentary from Father Breighner here.

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.