[COLUMN] ‘I am because we are’

God has high hopes for us. This is a truth we must firmly believe. As the Book of Jeremiah 29:14 tells us, “For surely I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord, “plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.”

However, our hope for the Church, our country, communities, and the world requires a common faith in humanity and a mutual understanding of what needs to be done. Pope Francis, in his book “Let Us Dream: The Path to A Better Future,” emphasizes the importance of fraternity, stating:

“To dream of a different future, we need to choose fraternity over individualism as our organizing principle.  Fraternity, the sense of belonging to each other and to the whole of humanity, is the capacity to come together and work towards a shared horizon of possibility.”

Beyond the fun, food, rides, games, and the grand raffle at this weekend’s parish carnival, we celebrate hope for humanity grounded in a fraternal spirit here in this part of our nation, the City of Glendale, California. We demonstrate goodwill, peace, love, and care for our fellow parishioners, neighbors, friends, and fellow city dwellers. We hope for more opportunities to come together in peace and harmony. In a world and country plagued by conflicts and division, we must be agents of peace and reconciliation.

Often, our dreams for a better world start with the persistent efforts of an individual, a group of people, a small organization, or a local church. This weekend’s successful carnival serves as an example of this truth. Seven years ago, our faithful and persistent parishioner, Joe Chavez, along with his supportive wife, Frances, approached the pastor about organizing a carnival and a car raffle to raise funds for the needs of the parish. The pastor believed in Joe’s ability, and the success of this event, now one of the most anticipated community gatherings in Glendale and the most successful fundraiser for our church, was beyond anyone’s imagination. All it took was the aspiration of one man.

The narrative of our community aligns well with Sunday’s (June 16) Gospel that illustrates how the Kingdom of God starts like a mustard seed, the smallest of all seeds on earth. When sown, it grows into the largest plant, providing shelter for birds. Similarly, one person’s idea and aspiration became a catalyst for a significant community event in our context.

Each of us has the potential to achieve remarkable feats. With faith in God, we can contribute profoundly to our churches and communities.      Instead of focusing on the negatives in our world, let’s consider the positive ways we can promote harmony, peace, justice, and prosperity.

Maria Ressa, a Filipina Nobel Peace Prize winner in journalism in 2021, referenced the South African saying of Ubuntu in a recent commencement speech at Harvard University. She explained that Ubuntu translates to “I am because we are.” Reflecting on this saying during our parish carnival weekend is truly inspiring. This event embodies not just one person’s efforts or a small group’s endeavors but our collective aspiration to build a united community with a shared dream of creating a better world.

Enjoy the parish carnival!

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The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the Asian Journal, its management, editorial board and staff.

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Fr. Rodel “Odey” Balagtas is the pastor of Incarnation Church in Glendale, California.

 

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