Last week President Biden reestablished the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. The Partnerships Office advances funding opportunities and collaboration between government and religious organizations that serve people in need and encourages interfaith, multisectoral discourse about policies that affect faith communities. Pledging to work closely with leaders of different faiths and backgrounds who can help America heal, unite and rebuild, the President said: “There are not Democrats or Republicans dying from this pandemic, or losing their jobs, going hungry and facing eviction in this economic crisis, or facing the sting of systemic racism or the brunt of the climate crisis. They are fellow human beings. They are fellow Americans. And this is not a nation that can, or will, simply stand by and watch the suffering around us. That is not who we are. That is not what faith calls us to be.”
What does our faith call us to be in the face of the suffering and challenges described by President Biden? Consider today’s readings. Acts 1:15-26 describes a peaceful leadership succession. The apostles welcome a new member to fill the position vacated by Judas – Matthias, a follower of Jesus from the early days, elected to apostleship by Christ. John 15:1,6-16 is the familiar and beloved exhortation to “abide in me.” Jesus calls the apostles to love one another as he has loved them. The love he extols is an indivisible union, abiding at a capillary level, budding and flowering in an agrarian version of the trinity with Jesus as the “true vine” born of mother Earth and attended by God, the disciples spreading into the world like the spirited branches of a vine that bears good fruit, fruit that will last.
Faith born of this love is earthy and practical, not speculative or metaphysical. Its adherents welcome new leaders into the church and the world and are open to new ways of practicing ministry and apostleship. They admire lasting solutions and abandon that which is fruitless. Their generosity is commensurate as Jesus’ sacrifice was commensurate with what God called him to do on earth; likewise their love is inclusive. Above all, they make it an act of faith to call one another friends, as Jesus called his apostles friends.
Let us make friends with our fellow Americans. The time of division and indifference is over.