Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Tuesday in the 3rd Week of Ordinary Time (I)
The Basis of True Unity

Readings: Hebrews 10:1-10; Psalm 40:2 and 4ab, 7-8a, 10, 11; Mark 3:31-35

In the midst of the divisions that we continue to experience, both among and within ourselves – even as we pray so fervently this week for Christian unity – our readings today invite us to reflect more deeply upon what is the only secure foundation for true, lasting and universal peace and harmony.

There are many different things that have the power to bring people together. Shared interests and hobbies, for example – most of us have probably experienced the joys of enjoying time with friends at places such as the golf course or around the mahjong table. Then, there is, of course, the pursuit of money and economic development, one of the main forces driving the globalization of our world. Even a traumatic experience, like September the 11th or the Asian Tsunami, can evoke great compassion that cuts across races and religions.

But many of the different things that bring us together often also very quickly drive us apart don’t they? The shared pain and outrage of victims can turn into ugly disputes over how and whether or not to continue a war on terror. The desire to help those who suffer can also turn into disillusionment because others are not doing enough. The friendly mahjong table, as much as the promising business venture, or even the new church project, can very quickly become a battle-field on which egos clash. Indeed, as Jesus implies today, not even blood relations can serve as a true and lasting basis for the kind of unity we are seeking. We all know how fragile family ties can be. And we also know how families that are too closely-knit can actually stifle the growth of their members.

Our readings today point us instead to the one thing that can bring us true and lasting unity and peace for us all. Jesus says, in the gospel, Anyone who does the will of God… is my brother and sister and mother. We only become united to God and to one another when we are united in Christ. And we can only be united in Christ when we seek to do the Father’s will as he did. But isn’t this also part of the problem? Even among those who seek to do the Father’s will there can be much disagreement over what that will is and how to carry it out, as well as competition over who is doing a better job.

What to do when this happens? What does our meditation on the experience of Christ teach us? Sometimes, of course, the divisions that occur are signs that we are not really seeking God’s will but our own. Our egos continue to get in the way. We need to refocus our hearts and allow the Lord to purify us. At other times, even when our motives may be pure enough, divisions continue to arise. But wasn’t this also the experience of Christ? And wasn’t it precisely through his endurance of misunderstanding and opposition, even from those closest to him, and even unto death, that he accomplished the lasting unity of God and creation? For, as we heard in the first reading, the Father’s will was for us to be made holy by the offering of his body made once and for all by Jesus Christ.

How might we imitate Christ more closely? Where is the Father’s will leading us today?

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