Well, That’s One Thing We’ve Got

“You say we’ve got nothing in common, no common ground to start from, and that we’re falling apart…And I said, ‘What about Breakfast at Tiffany’s?’ And she said, ‘I think I remember that film, and as I recall, we both kinda liked it.’ And I said, ‘Well, that’s one thing we’ve got’.”

Those lyrics from a one-hit-wonder alternative band, Deep Blue Something, in the 1990s might play well in an election year or perhaps any time people cannot see eye-to-eye about what is important or how to move forward when coming from different places.  It’s tough to find common ground with those that view the world from opposing slants.  It falls upon leaders to get us talking to one another as a means to move forward together; if they don’t, we’ll remain in silos, wearing blinders or turning a deaf ear while advancing nowhere, and, of course, we’ll eventually fall apart.

The Catholic Church’s synodal process is currently in an interim phase of reflection and discussion.  This October, ecclesial leaders, scholars, and representatives from various religious communities will reassemble at the Vatican to contemplate what is on the minds and hearts of God’s people around the globe.  In this interim period, parishioners have been presented with two main questions to consider: 1) Where have I seen or experienced successes—and distresses—within the church’s structure, organization, leadership, or life that encourage or hinder the mission?  And 2) How can the structure and organization of the church help all the baptized to respond to the call to proclaim the Gospel and live as a community of love and mercy in Christ?  These are challenging ponderances that may help bring forth great renewal.  Of course, history and experience tell us that many people are not interested in dialogue, discussion, or discernment, even if it could bring about heightened awareness of the direction God is pointing out for us.

As it is with national politics in which many citizens are merely interested in advancing their own ideology or agendas, it is also with the church.  Sadly, some people do not possess the capacity to listen to ideas different from their own.  Others are unreasonable, illogical, or irrational; with them, we cannot use reason, logic, or rational thought.  But most people, I believe, are willing and eager to move forward together to a better place of understanding that the vast majority accept.   It may involve some compromise, as happens in marriage, but, more importantly, it involves building upon common ground.  With compromise, we give up things, but it is important to not give up core values or other essential principles; with common ground, fundamental values remain intact.  The common ground is our heart, which is united with the heart of God.  This synodal time is a call to offer ourselves as witnesses to the unfolding of God’s grace; it happens through conversation, especially listening and learning.

Through the process and exchange we may recall something that unites us with those of differing outlooks; when we identify that “one thing we’ve got,” we realize that we can find our common ground.  Discovering that common ground to start from, we soon find creative ways to build upon it.  Perhaps Dag Hammarskjold (in his journal, Markings) suggested the best way for people of good will to advance together with those of differing points of view: by realizing that God gave us a pure heart to see better both the divine and human perspectives, a humble heart to hear God and others with more acuity, a heart of love to serve, and a heart of faith to live together.  Well, that’s one thing we’ve got, and it can take us a long way together.