I am concerned about the gathering oppressive clouds and destructive winds of division, polarization, tribalism, nationalism, racial unrest, violence, and war that is wearing down our country and world. We are ripping ourselves apart with the lack of respect and unwillingness to acknowledge the dignity of one another. Our Gospel today offers some hope.
The opening and close of today’s Gospel reading is very telling: “Jesus said to his disciples: ‘If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone’ ” (Mt 18:15) and “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Mt 18:20). Jesus provides for us a model and he himself is the source for dealing with conflict.
Jesus offered the steps for coming together to resolve disharmony. First one to one, then three two one, then if the person still does not see their error, bringing in the elders and leaders of the Church. Each is an appeal to the conscience of the individual who has offended, who has sinned, who has caused harm, and at the foundation of each attempt is the intent to not bring down condemnation but conviction. Jesus insists that we resist the temptations of gossip, character assassination, and dehumanization. In this way, we can work to hold each other accountable in love, moving toward reconciliation and mutual respect, to win over our brother or sister.
We are called to embrace the gift and grace of our own God given dignity and diversity. Each one of us are a unique gift and expression of our loving Abba that no one has nor ever will again express, as each of us can, in our own original way. Yet, we will not attain the harmony and peace of Jesus’ call for unity if we keep making decisions rooted in our fear and prejudices, if we continue to crouch and operate from a defensive posture.
On our own initiative, from a posture of I am right and you are wrong, and even with the best of intentions, we will fall short, for “with human beings this is impossible, but for God all things are possible” (Mt. 19:26). As we deal with conflict and division, we need to be willing to come together, to see each other as human beings first and foremost, and with two or more, be willing to pray with and for one another, knowing and trusting that Jesus will be with us. Jesus, who spoke and stilled the storm can speak to through us and quiet the storm of division as well.
We need to be willing to unite in prayer, to accompany one another, to seek reconciliation, and be willing to work together to resolve our conflicts. St Paul in his willingness to be transformed by Jesus got this. We are to love our neighbor as ourself, for “Love does no evil to the neighbor; hence, love is the fulfillment of the law” (Romans 13:9-10). Even though the darkness and gathering gloom of division, polarization, and prejudice appears to be growing, let us commit to be bearers of light, love, and reconciliation.
Photo: A light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it.