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Sunday, March 3, 2024
The Observer

Always better when we're together

Republican vs. Democrat

Poor vs. Rich

American vs. Immigrant

Gay vs. Straight

Black vs. White

Colin Kaepernick vs. #BoycottNike

The Carolinas vs. Hurricane Florence

It’s becoming almost a cliche to state that our country and our world are becoming more and more fractured these days. Everything from politics to religious and social issues to pop culture and even natural disasters seems bent on ensuring that we’re separating ourselves (or being violently separated … looking at you, Florence) into smaller, more isolated groups. We can readily ensure that we encounter only environments where we already feel comfortable, where we are the “us” and everyone else is the “them.” At other times, through no individual fault of our own, circumstances — or terrible storms — can force apart communities, neighborhoods and even families, through displacement, destruction and death.

But, to take Jack Johnson a little out of context, “Well, it’s always better when we’re together.” Though we may not believe we can change the national atmosphere, what about our local environment, right here, right now? Is it time to look more thoughtfully around your section, hall, club or classroom and ask if everyone feels truly comfortable? To include someone more intentionally, not out of pity but genuine welcome? Could this be the week or the day we listen more attentively and assume good will when someone whose views differ from ours speaks up in class or at dinner? Maybe it’s time to read from a news site or religious blog you’d normally never click on, and ask what you might learn from it? These are all tough questions.

Actually, the questions themselves are fairly easy. Acting upon them is the tough part. If you listen to Sunday’s Gospel passage this coming weekend, you’ll hear that these questions are nothing new. Jesus’ apostles feared the contributions of a stranger who, they worried, might eclipse their own special status as the unique “us” around Jesus. In no uncertain terms He told them to stop. Or (spoiler alert) pluck out their own eyeballs. Maybe we are like the apostles — we already have a position of authority. We’re already recognized as someone with gifts to offer. Can we encourage with true humility, and accept more graciously the gifts of others, even when they show up from unexpected sources? Can we pray for the grace to be open to those unexpected gifts, especially when they challenge our comfortable security within the status quo?

Maybe we’re like the stranger in Mark’s Gospel, just beginning to realize what we have to offer to others in the name of Jesus. Can we muster up the courage to do something new, to push ourselves out into uncharted waters and figure out just how much we can contribute to the Body of Christ?

We are all the Body of Christ. We are meant to live and pray and die united with others. For Catholics, it’s why it is so important that we share the feast of the Eucharistic sacrifice in community. To truly “become what we receive,” the Body of Christ, we challenge ourselves to worship together with others even when it means that we step out: whether we step out of our halls to pray in a wider community, out of our friend groups to pray with strangers or out of our home countries to pray in another language or culture. Such intentional gathering to pray with others never deprives us, but only offers us more opportunities to receive the boundless grace of the Sacrament. We receive Christ’s body together, that together we may become Christ’s body.

We’re meant to persevere together. Those same disciples who so frustrated Jesus by their jealousy are the same ones with whom He chose to spend His public ministry; the same ones who shared the first Eucharist on the night before He died; the same ones transformed by Jesus’ resurrection into the earliest Body of Christ, the Church.

If we should need a reminder of the importance of our self-understanding as the Body of Christ, we might recall the beautiful words of St. Teresa of Avila:

Christ has no body now, but yours. No hands, no feet on earth, but yours. Yours are the eyes through which Christ looks compassion into the world. Yours are the feet with which Christ walks to do good. Yours are the hands with which Christ blesses the world.

We can be better, together.

Kate Barrett serves in Campus Ministry as the Associate Director of Liturgy and can be reached at

Learn more about Campus Ministry at

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.