Thanks for stopping by, again. I pray Our Lord has blessed your day and will continue to give you the graces you need to do His will. This post continues my exploration of Church history. You can find my first post here.
Have you experienced conflict with another Christian in your parish? Are you tired of the tension between groups in your Church community? Are you disappointed that we’re not more charitable – or, at least, forgiving towards one another?
When the Holy Spirit descended at Pentecost, He could not have found a more diverse group of people. They were not like-minded: there was a tax collector, a few fishermen, and even a Zealot (a radical Jewish group known for its violent tactics). “On Pentecost, the Spirit molded a collection of deeply flawed men into a force that would transform the world” (pg. 20). Can you imagine what it must have been like to be among the original Apostles? It wasn’t all campfires and singing “kum bay ah.” Remember James and John jockeying to be at Christ’s right and left side when he comes into his kingship? They had no idea what they were asking for. We read in Acts of the Apostles how the early Jewish Christians formed a faction to require Gentile converts to observe circumcision. Paul and others disagreed, arguing that this was an unnecessary burden. This issue was so serious that it could not be settled until the first ecumenical council (the Council of Jerusalem).
Conflict is a part of human nature. We see even the first Christians experience this in their community. What sets them apart from the pagans, and what should set us apart from the world today, is love. Obedience to the Holy Spirit, who has bestowed authority to certain persons, is an act of love. I may not like that person, but he or she has been chosen by the Holy Spirit to hold the small group or team or committee together. I exercise its virtue and show love for the Holy Spirit when I obey rightful authority. This is how the Holy Spirit holds large, diverse groups together.
Part of the genius of Christianity was that it did not shrink from the horrible way in which Jesus’ public life ended but actually placed it at the very center of the faith. The symbol of the cross did not become ubiquitous for several centuries, but St. Paul already boasted that, even though the cross was an obstacle to nonbelievers, “We preach Christ, and Him crucified.” (page 23)
I think the Holy Spirit holds groups together also by reminding us that Jesus loved us even before we truly converted. He loved the very people who were torturing and humiliating him. He loved even his friends who betrayed him. Christ died for us on the Cross first. Whether we love him or reject him comes second. Our response to his sacrifice opens or closes the promptings of the Holy Spirit.
If you’re experiencing disunity in your parish, don’t be discouraged. Don’t disengage, either. That’s what our Enemy wants. Stay involved and pray even more. Fast and offer alms. Those are the spiritual weapons we have to fight the forces that want to break us apart. Remember that there is no problem that personal holiness cannot solve.