One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic. See Nicene Creed. These are the Four Marks of our Church, the body of Christ. I need to ask myself if I truly believe that my Church has these four marks. If the answer is yes, then am I Catholic?
Let me explain. Catholic means universal. It means that the members of the body of Christ come from all races and ethnic groups, and are found everywhere. The Church, that is we, are open to all. Or are we? We know the Church is Catholic, but can a person be catholic? Am I catholic in the way I see others?
Viewing Others Through Filters
Children are born without filters. That is one reason Jesus loved to be around them, see the Gospel of Matthew (19:14). As we develop and mature, however, we acquire filters. By filters, I mean that we start looking at people through our own lenses of bias and prejudice, which come from our immediate families, our coworkers, communities (online and otherwise), nations, and our friends. What sort of filters? These can range anywhere from the color of people’s skin, their education, body type, gender, sexual orientation, possessions, occupations, mental or other disorders or disabilities, and the list goes on. In an examination of conscience, we have to ask ourselves if we are seeing others through our filters, or through the eyes of Jesus.
I carry these filters everywhere I go, and they apply to anything I sense. That means that they apply to everything I see, hear, touch, taste, and smell. Here’s a good test: when I look around during Mass, do I see souls, or do I see people different from me? If people are different from me, am I accepting and open to them, or am I judging them in accordance with my filters? Am I applying my own, unique standards and measurements to them?
It is a part of human nature to size people up as soon as I hear or see them. Haven’t you ever heard a person on the phone and immediately imagined what they look like? Then, when you actually meet or see them, their actual appearance is much different from what you had imagined. It’s the same with souls. Our outer appearances and conduct may hold SOME clues to what our souls really are like, but the real truth may be far from our guesses. Think of people you have encountered whose hidden stories have caused you to feel compassion and understanding, now that you know what they went through? That is why only God can judge another person. Only He knows what sort of childhood or other experiences that person has gone through, and what sorts of inner struggles and obstacles that person has had to overcome. It’s possible that at the very moment a person needs a boost up the mountain of life, our filters cause us to show them an attitude, or look, or to speak a word, that can throw them back down, perhaps never to get up again.
What Did Jesus Do?
When Jesus associated with tax collectors and sinners, he was reaching out with God’s love to all children of God. He even tried to reach the Pharisees and Sadducees, in spite of their open hostility towards him. If Jesus had had filters in operation, the extent of his reach would have been limited or curtailed. Therefore, the reach of his love and mercy would have been limited.
Encouragement for Your Journey
It is difficult for any of us to identify, overcome and deconstruct the many filters within us. If you find yourself wincing, frowning, or in any way negatively reacting to a person, you must ask yourself why you are doing so. If you look at a person and you already know the kind of person they are, this might give you an idea of the kind of filter you are using.
We can look to the lives of the Saints, each of whom had their own filters in place that they had to locate and eliminate in order to progress on their spiritual journey. The more they conquered their negative filters, the more aligned they became with Jesus. And after all, isn’t that our ultimate goal?
So when the next time we’re at church, work, the grocery store, a concert, movie, party, or seminar, ask yourself whether you are looking at others the way Jesus would look at that person. Then we can imitate our Lord in opening our hearts to that person, so that Jesus’ love, kindness, and mercy can flow from Jesus, through you, to the person Jesus loves as much as he loves you.
Victor Negrón is a husband, father, grandfather, practicing lawyer, former judge, past-President of the San Antonio Catholic Lawyers Guild, lay evangelist, Board Member of Pilgrim Center of Hope and A Woman’s Haven. Judge Negrón became Board Certified in Family Law in 1987. As a lay evangelist, Victor has served as a leader for Eucharistic Adoration of San Antonio, Inc., and has been involved with Pilgrim Center of Hope’s evangelizing activities since its early years – formerly as emcee for the Catholic Men’s Conference, and currently as a member of the PCH Board of Directors.
Answering Christ’s call, Pilgrim Center of Hope guides people to encounter Him so as to live in hope, as pilgrims in daily life. See what’s happening & let us journey with you! Visit PilgrimCenterOfHope.org.