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January 22, 2023: Third Sunday in Ordinary Time - Associate Pastor’s Corner

“I urge you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree in what you say, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and in the same purpose.”

–1 Cor. 1:10

In most ancient religions there are many gods, and they are all in conflict with each other. Cronus overthrows his father, the sky god Uranus, and is in turn overthrown by his son Zeus.   The Egyptian god Osiris is murdered by his brother Set.  Thor and Jormungandr slew each other; Loki and Heimdall killed each other.  And so it goes.  One could say that here man invents the gods in his image and likeness: human history seems to be a never-ending series of rivalries, wars, and divisions, so it must be with the gods too.

But the reality is that this is backward. There is only one God who, despite being three divine Persons, is entirely at peace, unified, with no division, conflict, or rivalry.  In fact, God created humanity in his image and likeness, so that we might also be free of division, completing each other as Adam and Eve complement each other: “Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh.”

But we know what happened next: the Fall, Cain kills Abel, the growing evil of all except Noah.  And so even Salvation History is full of division and violence, even among the Chosen People.  But in the fullness of time, God comes to be with his people.  Jesus breaths his Holy Spirit upon us and prays that “they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me.”

Nevertheless, the unity of the Holy Spirit is not an imposed top-down uniformity, and so St. Paul urges the Corinthians (and us!) to have the same mind and purpose.  The Truth that we have come to know and the purpose that he has given us must be the most important and defining part of our identity.  Are you are Democrat or Republican? Rich or poor? Oppressed or Liberated? Normal or Abnormal?  Native or Foreign?  The Good News of Jesus is that none of these things define you, they pale in comparison to our true identity: brothers and sisters in Christ.  Violence and division and desecration come when we forget this. 

So, how do we diminish division? Jesus shows us the way.  First, he commands us:  “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” All of our sins divide us from God, from each other, and from our true selves.  By confessing our sins, we breakdown the illusory walls that we build up in our own minds.

Second, Jesus invites a motley crew to follow him: tax collectors, sinners, Jews and Greeks, men and women.  Jesus sends us to make disciples of all nations, and so we overcome disunity by witnessing our saving encounter with Jesus to all peoples, not just our friends.  And we do this not by chucking bibles at people, but, as Jesus himself did, by healing the wounds of all, by breaking bread with everyone regardless of status, and by forgiving sins.

Finally, Jesus prays for unity, so that the world may believe.  We to must never neglect to pray for an end to division of all kinds.  But is does no good to pray without first examining our own lives so that we can ask God to help us to notice and change the ways in which our actions and attitudes divide rather than unite.  In particular, let Holy Communion be for you a moment of union, not only with God, but with his whole family, all those made in his image and likeness.

 

                                    -Fr. Christopher Wetzel


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