Learning from Divisions
Are there divisions in your family or workplace or parish? St. Paul makes a startling observation in 1 Cor. 11:17-26,33. He says, “There have to be factions among you…” as if this were a good thing.
Why? Where is the blessing in division? Paul explains: …that those who are approved among you may become known; or as another translation puts it: “…for the tried and true to stand out clearly.” Tried in what? True to what?
Love. Sometimes we’re motivated by love, and sometimes we’re motivated by selfishness. If we truly want to follow Christ and be close to him, so that we experience his unconditional, caring love each moment of each day, we have to live in his love, which means that our love for others has to be unconditional, like his.
To perfect our love – to become aware of the limits of our love so that we can stretch and grow beyond these limits – our love has to be tested and tried. Each new opportunity to love selflessly can improve our relationship with Jesus, but it will divide us from those who are behaving selfishly.
Paul says that the selfish person gets drunk on his wealth while disregarding the needs of others. To put this in terms of parish divisions, for example, the selfish ministers get intoxicated by their own status, their authority, their clout, their college degrees, their years of experience, and even their God-given talents while disregarding the feelings and insights and input and value of others.
In the midst of this, the “tried and true” stand out clearly. They try to mend divisions by extending gestures of kindness when they’re mistreated. Who is the person who proclaims “the death of the Lord until he comes again” (which Paul describes as the true meaning of the Mass, i.e., the Lord’s Supper)? The one who offers humble, loving service despite conflicts. We proclaim the Lord’s sacrificial death on the cross by making sacrifices, nailing the unloving reactions we feel. Thus, we become Eucharist for others.
In Luke 7:1-10, why did Jesus praise the faith of the pagan centurion? It wasn’t only because the official understood the power of an authoritative command. The man had humility, and he built a synagogue for the Jews out of concern for them. We can surmise from this that he genuinely loved his ailing servant. Likewise, in our humility we’re able to see the value of others, not just for what they can do for us, but as precious human beings.
Our faith is tried every time we encounter people who oppose us. Our faith is proven true when we respond to them with love.
© 2000/2010 by Terry A. Modica