Wednesday, 9th Week of Ordinary Time
Where there is division there is sin. – Origen
Origen, a very early Christian Philosopher, scholar and Theologian once stated that “Where there is division there is sin.” This ancient quote supports my reflection from last Wednesday where I paraphrased Fr. Jeremiah’s remarks, “The goal/work of the devil is to divide us, because divided we are weaker.”
Friends, there is no doubt in my mind that anyone taking the time to read this truly wants peace in our town, our state, our country and our world. In fact, I would bet an overwhelming majority of citizens all over the world truly desire a peaceful world. So, why is it such an elusive goal?
I would put forth that most, if not all of us, want peace on our terms. I don’t mean to say that we consciously feel that we have the best understanding of how to live in peace, but rather we think and speak from an egocentric position quite naturally, because that is what our experiences and sometimes text books have taught us. So, in our minds we think, “If I could just get them to understand ‘this’”, then surely we could work from there to achieve peace.”
I believe you are right. I also believe that if we want others to understand our “this” that we must first try to understand their “this”. My own most successful conversations in accomplishing unity started with listening. In fact, the longer I listen, the easier I find it to arrive at common ground.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus did not take the bait of “choosing sides” or dismissing one idea because of another. He simply allowed for His listeners to “pay to Caesar what is Caesar’s, yet pay to God what is God’s.” Without dismissing those who were looking to disagree with Him, He simply allowed for society to follow its own course while pointing to what is most important.
Make no mistake, there are terrible sins against humanity and against God occurring in our society today. We cannot condone those sins by our allies or accept the sins of those who oppose our position. However, our mission is not to find fault or to choose sides, but to find a common ground from which we can live in peace.
Too much of our current public discourse centers on listening just enough to find the fault in the argument, never seeking the validity of the argument. It’s hard to arrive at truth, agreement or peace when our energy is focused on mistakes or misconceptions. When was the last time you saw a news story, social media post or political speech that highlighted the commonality of two sides? It is always about pointing out what is WRONG with the other side. Is there ANY hope for peace in that method of social discourse?
It’s hard for us to imagine that those who have hurt us deeply and significantly can be loved by God. Yet, we know that it is true. When we adamantly oppose one another, we oppose a beloved child of God.
“Bear your share of hardship for the Gospel with the strength that comes from God.” Brothers and sisters, living in peace with others who come from a different place and a different experience is difficult. It is no easy task. Yet, we are not called to a life of seeking only what is good and comfortable to us. We are called to be a pilgrim people of love. To love and evangelize, we must first meet our neighbors where they are, and understand them. Then, through our love, not our selfishness, they will see God, who is love.
Today we pray for peace. We pray for peace that begins with us. We pray that we might better understand the strife and difficulty of those who oppose us so that we can join them on some common ground. We pray that in all circumstances we show that we are the Body of Christ by how we accept and love one another.
God Bless each one of you and God Bless America.