“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” (Mt 3:2) These words taken from John the Baptist have often been yelled at me, or rather just yelled, as I rode the subway or as I walked across a street corner. It is difficult for me to untangle my visceral feelings of discomfort at and contempt of subway preachers from the words in this Sunday’s Gospel.
But that’s just it. Those words are meant to make me feel uncomfortable, to shake me from my apathy. It’s easy to turn up my headphones and rush past a subway preacher. It is more difficult to ignore the gnawing feeling inside of me that is asking difficult questions, urging me to face my sins. How do I reconcile being complicit with institutions that have fueled racism and sexism? How do I belong to a nation that separates families and puts children into cages?
Paul understood the messiness of humanity and human institutions. He is trying to reconcile the church of the Roman Empire in the 1st century. On the one hand, the church in Jerusalem is arguing that the Gentiles are not equal to and therefore do not have the same privileges as they do. Then the burgeoning church in Antioch is arguing that they don’t have to conform to Jewish law. Paul knows that the community will continue to wrestle with these questions, yet he also knows that God is a God of endurance and encouragement. He urges them to “welcome one another, then, as Christ welcomed you, for the glory of God.” (Rom 15:7)
The prophet Isaiah illustrates for us the glory of God. “The wolf shall be the guest of the lamb” (Is 11:6) and “the baby shall play by the cobra’s den.” (Is 11:8) I know that I will continue to wrestle with my questions as the Romans struggled with theirs. Yet I am called to prepare the way of the Lord, to work toward the coming of Christ—I await the day when justice and peace will flourish.
Teresa Marie Cariño is the director of parish faith formation at St. Ignatius Parish in San Francisco, CA.
She formally served as pastoral associate for youth and young adult ministry at the Church of St. Ignatius Loyola in New York City.
Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, she has deep roots in the Jesuit education tradition.
After graduating from St. Ignatius College Prep, she attended the University of San Francisco (USF), earning a bachelor’s degree in theology and religious studies with minors in Catholic studies & social thought and Philippine studies. While at USF, Teresa worked in the university ministry office and co-founded the student leadership group Ignatian Companions. She also studied abroad with the Casa Bayanihan program at the Ateneo de Manila University in the Philippines, working with marginalized communities.
Upon graduation, Teresa joined the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, spending a year of service working as a tenant organizer in New York City.