(This article originally appeared in the TAU-USA  Spring 2024 Digital Issue #111)

by Ron Lacey, OFS

National Ecumenical / Interfaith Committee Chair

Beautiful sunrise over mountainsYou may have heard the Zen koan: “Coming, going – what’s the difference?” A koan is a riddle that at first seems nonsensical, but when properly understood, it shows the inadequacy of human logic. It is only in our deluded state that we think we’re entering one place without leaving another.

This koan has been much on my mind lately. My beloved fraternity – St Anthony, Boston – has been deactivated. We were once the largest fraternity in St Elizabeth of Hungary Region, but age, sickness, death, a few departures, and no new blood have taken their toll. I’m sure many of you have had similar experiences; we’ve said a tearful goodbye to many fraternities.

But with deactivation come new things: exploring other fraternities, making new friends, learning new things, and ultimately, transferring into another fraternity. Coming, going . . . death, resurrection!

It isn’t just fraternity life, is it? It seems that everything works this way: the old gives way to the new. We are often sad to lose the old, but we must never despair, for our Lord may prune, but he does so only to help his branch yield more fruit (Jn 15:2). In the area of ecumenism and interfaith dialogue, for example, we leave our old isolation, lose our false sense of security, and we enter a new path of discovery; we gain new friends and new wisdom. It doesn’t always happen in that order, but “joy comes with the morning!” (Ps 30:5).

Our beloved sister Carolyn Townes recently shared with us on the Ecumenical/Interfaith Committee a reflection by Ronald Rolheiser, OMI, who spoke of real ecumenism as a path of “progressive convergence.” Drawing on the late Cardinal Dulles, Rolheiser says that ecumenism is not about making converts, pointing out everyone else’s errors, bringing them around our altar. (It is Jesus’ altar, not ours!) In other words, it isn’t about getting them to leave their church for ours. Progressive convergence is about drawing closer to the Prince of Peace – something that demands a persistent turning away from sin, arrogance, the horrible need to be right – and as we draw closer and closer to Jesus, we find in our disagreements a cause for shame, for we find ourselves gathered around him, whose one and only commandment is love.

This Easter Season, ask yourself: “Where am I going?” “Where does this lead?” “Where do I want to go, and what do I have to give up to get there?” Remember in whom we live, move, and have our being (Acts 17:28). Remember that we can ascend the heavens, and he is there; we can make our bed in the depths, and he is there (Ps 139:8). Remember that our neighbors – particularly the ones we ignore and the ones we don’t like – are in fact the gate of heaven. And remember, Jesus is making all things new (Rev 21:5)