We are all divided. Could we join as one?
What happens when you tell your son: DON’T do that, and he still does it? In today’s second reading, St. Paul says: DON’T divide the church of Christ. Yet we are so divided, not only between Jews and Christians, but also between members of the same church. Paul was very concerned because he saw church leaders dividing the church in his own time. This is nothing new.
Recently, the Catholic Church, through Pope Francis, announced that the founder of the protestant movement DID NOT want to divide the church but to reform it. This is very important as finally someone openly talked about something that we all knew. Luther did not want to divide the church, but at the end that’s exactly what happened.
Today we say: I am Catholic; I am protestant; I am nondenominational or I am Lutheran. Paul would say: Was Peter’s death what saved us? Was Martin Luther the messiah? NO. Each follower of Christ is a follower of Christ, hence not a Catholic or an Evangelical or a Lutheran. Christ did not want the church divided as it is right now. But, we did it and we have grown to like it that way. Would we want to change? (probably not).
Pope Francis knows that the gift of the Spirit is unity and not division. So how do I reconcile the fact that I have divided myself from the church of Christ? Obviously by believing that I am right and the others are wrong. Catholics are the real Church, some protestants would say we are the only one saved, etc., etc., etc. I wonder what Paul would say about that?
Jesus begins his ministry by claiming that the Kingdom of God is at hand, or is near, or is among us or is in our midst. He brought LIGHT to darkness. The evangelist uses the prophecy of Isaiah to emphasize the ignorance and the darkness in which people lived when Jesus came. He came to preach about changing our ways and repenting for what we’ve done (just like you want your son to recognize that what he did was wrong and that he should have listened to you in the first place). Would you disinherit your son and condemn your daughter if she speaks to him? That’s what many churches are doing: disinheriting their children and forbidding their parishioners from visiting other churches that are “separate” and “not the real church of Christ”.
Unfortunately to preach about this makes people anxious and they get defensive as if one is attacking them. But, that’s not the purpose. When we go back to the biblical studies we know very well that Jesus came to preach repentance and forgiveness. We know that Jesus preached a gospel of unity, especially ratified by the Holy Spirit. Wouldn’t it be so nice to have a unity of all the churches in the world? In which what is important is our personal relationship with God and our service to those who are away from Him.
Today we emphasize the routine and the gold and the beauty of priestly robes and church decorations. There is more talk inside the churches about what is politically correct and what constitutes a good Catholic or a good Lutheran, and not enough about how to be a good follower of Christ. My hunch is that we all see Jesus with our own eyes (obscured by our blinders). No wonder we are so divided! No wonder we do not see the kingdom of God in our midst. No wonder many people ask constantly where is Jesus?
People are unable to see him, because we have too much glamour and protocols, and rules and regulations and standards that obscure the real presence of Christ. It would be nice to begin to include Jesus in our conversations. Would Jesus approve of these divisions? Would Jesus approve of you not speaking to your neighbor? Would Jesus approve of you condemning others? Would Jesus approve of your self-righteousness? Would Jesus approve of you raising yourself by lowering others?
In other words, in the name of religion we have created a massive division that is weakening the presence of God in our midst. This is not what Jesus intended and it is not his work. Although, individually we cannot do anything about this, we can at least recognize the truth and pray for the unity of the Church of Christ (not the Catholic Church, not the Lutheran or the Episcopalian, nor the nondenominational but the real church of Christ – the mystical body of Christ). The mystical Body of Christ is the holy Church composed by men and women from different walks of life and different religious creeds. In other words a little girl in Africa that does not know Jesus, but that is a good holy girl, is a member of his body. I am sure that there are men and women in and out of the church that are holy and are one with Christ even if they never met him (as explained by one of the most important Catholic Theologians of the 20th century – Karl Rahner).
As we continue to observe nations against nations; and as we witness how Christians, parishioners, priests and bishops fight against each other, let us listen to the invitation of St. Paul. Let us unite in prayer and ask God to reunite His people in one gesture of love and peace. And let us make a commitment to be more loving and less divisive.
Fr. Marc Angelo, PO Box 3414, Culver City, CA 90231
Mass every Sunday at 6:00pm at St. Mary’s in Palms 3647 Watseka Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90034-3914