Is Our House In Order?
by Jeff Montgomery
There's a great deal of ink and paper (and cyberspace, for that matter) being used up these days about all of the various conflicts that are dividing the Catholic Church. From the very public debate about whether or not Catholic politicians who support abortion should be receiving Communion, to the more private battles for turf and control of committees at the parish level, there seems to be a lot of argument and debate about what we believe and how we live our faith.
And it's not a very pretty sight, not does it set a very good example for non-Christians or even non-Catholics (though some of the Protestant churches are experiencing their own dissent).
At a broader level, we have many conflicts going on around the world, from Iraq to the Sudan to Northern Ireland, to Palestine. You have to wonder sometimes, "Is this what God intended?"
I think that, ideally, God would like to see us all getting along and playing nicely with each other. But at the same time, He knows our fallen nature, and thus knows that it's difficult, if not impossible, for us to achieve that goal.
So is there any hope for unity in this world? I think there is, and we can start by looking within.
The first question we should ask ourselves is this - "Am I in unity with God?" If we pay lip service to living a holy life, but continue to live in ways that are less than holy, then we can't possibly hope to be in union with our God. The hypocrisy of living this way allows a door to remain open to the great tempter to lead us astray, and to lead us away from God. If we're not in union with God, then we don't have God's spirit dwelling within in us. Without inner peace we can't expect to find outer peace.
Now, most of us a probably trying pretty hard to live a holy life. But it takes a constant diligence to keep ourselves focused on God, and Jesus, and the Cross. With all of the distractions of the world that we have to deal with, temptations sneak in the push us just to the left or right enough to steer us away from God. Only through prayer and Confession can we be cleared of these temptations.
And once our sins are forgiven through Confession, we are open to receiving the grace of God. God's grace enables us to withstand the temptations of the world. It opens us up to be able to seek a total unity in heart, mind, and will with God. When we have that kind of unity with God, we are filled with His love. And once we are filled with His love, we want to share it with our brothers and sisters.
Which brings us to our parish. Our parishes are supposed to be a microcosm of the Christian life. They should be places where believers can gather together and celebrate their mutual love of Christ, their belief in His divinity, and the divinity of our Church. We should be focused on God's great love for all of us, and realize that we are all brothers and sisters in Christ.
Most of the time it doesn't work that way. Sure, we share our faith, and gather together for Mass in common celebration of the Eucharist. But often our imperfections cause conflict that can be avoided. I could list a litany of things that I've observed that are a far cry from Christian behavior. Bickering, infighting, rude behavior - all of it creates division.
We can do our part to promote unity within our own house by seeking to be builders, rather than destroyers. Do we partake in the bickering, or do we work to find common ground? Do we seek to be of service, or do we try to 'take charge' so the glory and recognition can come our way? Do we remember that all of our efforts should reflect the love of Christ?
While division and disunity can occur over major issues, I believe the most insidious and permanent type of division works it's way up from within. If we spend our time worrying or fighting over who got to do what, or who brought the most dessert for the pot-luck dinner we create the kind of disagreement that festers and grows. It creates hurt feelings that aren't easily forgotten.
If our efforts are illuminated by the love of Christ, then we can let forgiveness reign. God created us all with different personalities, and sometimes we have to work to get along. But when Christ dwells within each of us we can appreciate those differences rather than be annoyed.
The inner knowledge that we're all on this journey of salvation together opens doors. We're more willing to listen, more patient with personalities, and less concerned with our own egos. The end goal becomes the most important thing, and not the petty differences that litter the pathway.
Can we expect this to happen? I believe we can, if we humble ourselves before the Lord, and let the Holy Spirit guide our lives. God can accomplish miracles through our lives, if we but set aside the distractions and temptations that lead us astray.
If we're one with God, we can be one with each other.
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