As a new member of the Georgetown community, I have been spending lots of time exploring the campus, learning about its history and meeting wonderful faculty, staff and students since my arrival on campus in early August.

In particular, I have been taken with the Latin words on the seal of Georgetown — utraque unum, which can be loosely translated as “both are one” or “that which is diverse united as one.” This motto grounds Georgetown’s Jesuit and Catholic mission as we build a community of people dedicated to unity and compassion.

From the very start of Christianity, the Holy Spirit was invoked for its power to bring a diversity of people together. In the New Testament, the early Christians called upon the Spirit of God to help them cross the borders that separated tribes, races and nations in their desire to claim a deeper unity. This unity is the first gift of God’s Spirit: It does not eliminate the complex assortment of human beings, but rather makes it possible to rejoice in it.

The apostle Paul writes to the early Christians that they are neither Greek nor Roman, Jew nor Gentile, male nor female but all made one in Christ Jesus. We Hoyas can add to that list today — we are neither white nor black, Asian nor Latinx, straight nor gay but all one in our dignity before God.

The Spirit always draws out this tension. There is a latent desire in each of us to reduce that which is foreign into simple categories, so that we can justify our differences — well, he’s Muslim, she’s Jewish, we are Republicans, they are Democrats, this professor is conservative and that one is liberal. However, God’s Spirit elicits an even deeper desire out of us: It is a desire to dissolve distinctions, to embrace that which we are not, to celebrate the similarity of our lives amid our dissimilarity. Our Catholic and Jesuit heritage helps us celebrate the differences and the complexities in each of us, while maintaining sight of our common humanity.

For the Christian, the love of God — the willingness of God to become a human being and enter into history — is the supreme act that breaks boundaries and subverts the easy dichotomies of flesh and spirit; human and divine; and pure and impure.

American writer Richard Rodriguez discusses this topic in his memoir, “Brown: The Last Discovery of America.” This series of essays comments on the “browning of America,” a metaphor that is not necessarily about pigment but that encapsulates the mixing of earthly experience.

As a person of color whose Catholic faith has shaped him, Rodriguez discusses how the color brown represents God’s willingness to mix with human bodies — God’s willingness to be brown. This argument is the great paradox: Not only is God willing to become brown, but God loves the brown; God loves the mix; and God loves those who go to the frontiers and cross boundaries in search of it.

This unity is the insight of utraque unum, diversity in community or, as we say here at Georgetown, community in diversity. At every Christian liturgy, at every Shabbat, at every Muslim call to prayer and at every Hindu prayer service, we celebrate the force of a love bringing us together, even amid our unique spiritual journeys.

One of my favorite authors, Graham Greene, whose archives are here at Lauinger Library, has a quote I love from his novel “The Power and the Glory.” To me, it is pertinent to what is asked of us as we try to live out our Jesuit values. In this novel, a broken-down priest is in a dark, crowded prison with drunks, prostitutes and criminals. First offended by such an assortment of people, the priest comes to a spiritual insight as the morning light begins to shine upon their faces.

The priest looks closely at those around him — the corners of their eyes, the shapes of their mouths — and realizes that he is one of them. He sees himself in them, reflecting, “Such a lot of beauty … it was impossible to hate. Hate is just a failure of the imagination.”

Hoyas: Let us not allow our imaginations to fail us this year. Rather, let us enter the mix, into the brown of life, and live deeply in what the Spirit of Georgetown invites us to: utraque unum.

Fr. Mark Bosco, S.J., is the vice president for mission and ministry at Georgetown University. As This Jesuit Sees It appears online every other Thursday.

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