Overcoming Divisions

Luke 11: 14-23

The profound statement that we just heard from Jesus, "Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters" leaves no doubt for us on our Lenten journey today.  There is no neutral ground for us to stake out.  We make no progress on our journey when one of our feet is on the path of holiness and the other foot is on the world's path.

 

Mark Twain had this humorous quote, saying, “I don’t like to commit myself between heaven and hell, you see, I have friends in both places.” If he wasn't just saying this in jest, we know that he was grossly missing the mark.  Whether we like it or not, we have to make a  choice, and we have to express our commitment to that choice.

 

Whenever we fail to fully cooperate with Jesus, we are working (at least to some degree) against his perfect plans, against his strategies for spreading the kingdom of God, and against his attempts to answer other people's prayers.
 

If we neglect the needs of others, if we ignore the sufferings of even the least significant people around us, if we refuse to love those whom he loves, we are working against Jesus.  If we think about it, that's keeping the bar pretty darn high for many of us who routinely fall short in this regard.
 

Are there divisions that we see in our families, within our circle of friends or even within our parish family that we can identify?  Every division is more than just person against person, faction against faction.  It's an act against Jesus and it scatters people away from the path that he has paved for them.  Jesus says, "Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste.  Any house torn by dissension falls."
 

Through God's resurrection power, however, all divisions can become great opportunities for new and stronger unity – if the factions choose to reconcile and to handle the problems God's way.
 

Here is where we sometimes find ourselves snagged: What if, in a divisive situation, we're willing to reconcile, but others have hardened their hearts and stiffened their necks against us, and God (using the language from the first reading)?  The division might go on forever, but in those instances, God can still bless us, heal ours hearts and strengthen our holiness.


To receive this kind of healing, we have to hear God's voice and harden not our hearts (using the language from the responsorial Psalm) when others make reconciliation difficult or impossible.  Condemnation and vengeful anger work against God's plans, so instead of adding to the wall of division, we need to employ some empathy for those who are adversarial to us and pray for them.  We need to be with Jesus, standing beside him, ready and eager to be conduits of his mercy and love if and when opportunities arise.
 

Sometimes for the sake of safety or emotional and spiritual health, we have to in fact separate ourselves from others when they refuse to cooperate with reconciliation.  We shouldn't allow ourselves to be riddled in guilt when this kind of situation occurs.  No matter how long the division continues, we shouldn't consider this type of separation sinful, that is, as long as we are listening for God's voice, with softened hearts, choosing to lovingly do good for our adversaries.
 

The unwavering truth about all this is that...loving those from whom we're divided means that we don't decide how to treat them based on how they treat us nor on what we think they deserve.  Instead, we give them what they're ready to receive from Jesus through us. That's how we can have unity even in the midst of our divisions!

 

So, we pray to Jesus today for guidance.  He is the one who "gathered the nations in the peace of God's kingdom".  He "reconciles us to one another and to the Father." (both these things we say frequently at the beginning of Mass in the "Penetential Act"). His perfect plan is to bring us all together - through him.

 

We pray that he will lead us to a greater sense of clarity... 1) that we can see more clearly the divisions in our lives, 2) that we can see more clearly the pathway to reconciliation, and 3) that we can see more clearly our unity with Christ even in the midst of our suffering and our divisions.

 

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