As we celebrate Easter, we are called to reflect on the love and mercy of God and to show this same love and mercy to those around us. But we’re human. Sometimes we treat those who hold different political, idealogical, or cultural views as an enemy to be conquered rather than brothers and sisters to love.
In an interview with the Orange County Register, Bishop Kevin Vann of Orange has a great reminder for all:
“God loves you. It’s not about issues. It’s about people.”
His witness throughout the column is an excellent example of how to share the message of Christ’s love with those around us. The Orange County Register columnist who interviewed Bishop Vann describes himself as a lapsed Catholic, but comes away from the conversation impressed, and perhaps one step closer to coming home.
I ask about tolerance, and about illegal immigration in particular.
The bishop immediately dismisses the term “tolerance,” which he says has become a politically-charged word. Instead, the bishop addresses the issue in religious terms, equally telling but more powerful.
He asks if Jesus would turn away a certain group. Answering his own question, Vann says, “God loves you. It’s not about issues. It’s about people.”
Yes, Vann practices what he preaches. As a young priest in Illinois, he taught himself Spanish so he could minister to a Latino family who ran a restaurant. He explains, “You minister to people who come your way.”
The bishop also has taken a leadership role in the immigration debate. In September, for example, Vann, as chairman of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, co-signed a letter to the secretary of Homeland Security. It urged the secretary “to protect undocumented individuals and families as soon as possible.
“With immigration reform legislation stalled in Congress, our nation can no longer wait to end the suffering of family separation caused by our broken immigration system,” he wrote.
Vann offers one of many gentle smiles and nods. “I just don’t categorize people.”
The bishop also doesn’t shrink away from the molestation scandals. English, Spanish and Vietnamese leaflets sit in the administration building’s lobby detailing the diocese’s pledge, “To do everything possible to help the healing process of the victims of sexual abuse.”
So what’s all this have to do with Easter? As a lapsed Catholic – and it’s impossible not to re-evaluate one’s relationship to the church when talking to someone like Vann – I would suggest everything.
Read the rest at the Orange County Register.