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July 14, 2014

Songwriter Christopher Wemp recently wrote a beautiful liturgical hymn titled “Jesus the Open Door.” It is a door through which we walk to meet the Lord and it is the door through which we go to meet those who need ‘good news.’ Here are some verses from the song:

“May we find hope in the risen Lord;
may we be hope for those in despair.
May we find strength in the fullness of God;
may we be strength for the weary and tired.
May we find healing in the touch of God;
may we be healers for our wounded world.”

Christopher’s song brings out in a clear way the two basic dimensions of Christian faith: the “vertical” or our personal relationship with Christ and the “horizontal” which encompasses our relationship with other people and with all of creation. They are symbolized for the Christian in the Sign of the Cross. The vertical beam finds its meaning in “love the Lord your God with your whole heart, your whole soul, and your whole mind” and the horizontal beam “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-38).

The challenge is to keep these two dimensions in balance.

When I was growing up in the 1950s the emphasis was more on the vertical dimension. We hesitated about becoming too involved with the world and its issues for fear of being tainted by it. The Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) blew that line of thinking out of the water, especially in its document, “The Church in the Modern World.” The Council rightly stretched our understanding of “neighbor” and commitment to others: “The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the people of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these too are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ.”

This “reaching out to the neighbor,” of course, applies to our professional as well as our personal life. With Christ as our leader and we his “hands” and “heart” in the world we are called to:

  • live and promote an ethical lifestyle
  • be extra sensitive to those at work who are having a difficult time be it due to a personal or job related problem
  • be as caring to those who work for us – assistant, secretary, janitor – as we are to those we report to
  • treat those who live on the streets, the working poor, and the mentally impaired with dignity.

In the last verse of his song, Christopher Wemp points us in the right direction:

“May we find joy in the promise of God; may we be joy by living the Word.”

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