Division and separation. Sometimes we take sides and stick to them… no matter what.
Doesn’t it feel as though we’ve had a lot of this over the past few years. News reports used to inform, now they are designed to elicit emotion. If we are charged up, enraged, we’ll stay on the website, we’ll watch for a bit longer. Outrage is the currency and according to social scientists, we’re all paying a high price for it.
The same can be said of our Holy Catholic Church. Many of us seem angry, disengaged, and disconnected these days. We have differences of opinion and some of us older folks long for the good old days… when our churches were completely full and we were united, living in peace and true harmonic bliss.
Ah, the good old days…
But consider our Second Reading today, Paul’s letter to the early church community in Corinth. Paul states: “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.”
In those early days, the Church had division and separation. Based on Paul’s urgent tone, it seems there was a lot of outrage in Corinth and he was trying hard to quell it.
If you learn about the 2,000 plus year old history of our Church, you’ll see many instances of unrest, of division, of difficult decisions and the fact that not everybody agreed on the best course of action for the future. In fact, I think you’d be hard pressed to find a time when this was not the case.
Today’s reading plus some historical perspective would strongly suggest that the good old days weren’t always good.
That’s because there’s something in our nature that divides us. It’s no wonder we have conflict. It is inherent and it is unavoidable. The real question is: what do we do, as Christians, when we encounter it?
In today’s Gospel, Jesus called the first apostles. It’s worth noting that they were fishermen and that two of them, James and John, left their father behind. In those times, being a fishermen was a stable and good way to make a living. One of the best in fact. But they left it all behind. And kinship was incredibly important, yet two of the brothers left their dad standing there by the boat. When Peter, Andrew, James, and John were called by Jesus, they left something valuable and important behind. But, as we know from the rest of the story, they left for something more valuable and far more important.
I believe that we are called too. Called to leave something behind for something more valuable and far more important. That does not mean we must sell all we own and move away to the far reaches, it doesn’t mean we need to leave our jobs and families as the first apostles did, and I don’t believe it means that we have to step out of our ordinary lives to do something truly extraordinary.
Being called means moving ahead… and also leaving something else behind.
We could leave behind a grudge we’ve been holding onto for years or decades and move toward forgiveness instead.
We could leave behind our attachments, to things or behaviors or relationships that, in our hearts, we just know are not good for us or those we care about.
We could leave behind the narratives we create in order to feel right, or safe, or to experience belonging… when it means abandoning our own core principles.
We could leave behind the divisions that separate us, let go of the outrage, accept that some of us here have a different view of the world and how things should be… and instead be universally united by our love of Christ and our desire to follow him into eternity.
When we encounter someone different, someone who has conflicting views from our own… we can build up a high wall and then fortify and protect it with layer upon layer of fear, anger and our created narratives. Or we can leave all that behind and try to open up doorways instead which connect us so that we can see if we might build something better together.
This was true for the ancient church in Corinth and it’s also true for this one today, right here in our town.
When we are called to move forward, we must leave something else behind.
What will you leave behind?