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
This weekend is the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time. The weekly readings can be found here. The theme is calling together all of humanity in Unity in Christ. This is a fitting theme as we end the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity and the celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. in the United States.
This week’s reflection is from Fr. James Predmore, S.J. You can find the entire reflection here, but set forth below is an extended summary:
“In Matthew’s Gospel, immediately after Jesus begins to preach, he calls two sets of brothers in the fishing trade, Simon and Andrew, and James and John, to join his mission. They leave their professions and follow him in this great enterprise. The Jesus movement begins in earnest. Other disciples were later added as they taught and cured every disease and illness among the people. While in Corinth, Paul stresses unity among the believers, that they be of the same mind and in the same purpose. He points out the rivalries that set in and urges believers to forget their factions and to unify under Christ. In fact, if you listen to the prayerful words in the mass, you will find the Church stresses unity above all other concerns.
We are a church filled with diverse cultures and interests. Our goal is to be unified in common mind and purpose even though we represent different traditions, experiences, races, and backgrounds. You can bet that the disciples of Jesus had natural animosities to one another. Simon, a zealot does not make easy peace with a compromiser; Matthew, a traitorous collaborating tax collector is his natural enemy. Simon is chosen over his brother; James and John and their mother vie for power and anger the other ten. Judas controls the purse strings because he is trusted to act with integrity. The diverse interests and opinions of the Twelve and their many followers conflicted many times, but they had one thing in common: they agreed to follow the promise of Jesus and this settled all other matters.
Our local church community has to let go of the simple-minded ways we approach service to the larger community. We have to put the community before ourselves. In any church across the world we will find these types of people: the untrained musician who will not give up her style of playing guitar despite the protests of the community because her pride will be hurt if others find out she does not have foundational musical skills (The great secret is very public anyways); the unbending person who takes up the weekly offertory in his own peculiar way because it is one aspect of life where he can contribute and exert control; the organizer of socials who demands that others cannot eat or have fun at a party until the game she wants everyone to play is finished; the reader who makes the same mistakes every week because he will not listen to proper protocol.
These peculiar behaviors are numerous and hold the community back from coming together as one body. However, despite their fierce resistance, the church will move forward because the church is larger-minded. Small-minded people stay in their place and are therefore left behind; large-hearted people move forward and see the possibilities for growth. The most helpful question a person can ask their priest is this: I would like to be generous in offering my service to the church. What is the best way the church can use my gifts? Believe me, every good gift will be used for God’s greater glory and the generous person will find a place where he or she can thrive and be very happy. Being a “person with and for others” brings exponential happiness.
I’ll read a quote from the early deliberations that started the Jesuits way back in 1540. Knowing that their dedication to serve the Church and Christ, the Lord, would undoubtedly separate them from one another, the first companions discerned if they should somehow bind themselves to one another. Here is their response.
In the end, we established the affirmative side of the question, that is, that in as much as our most kind and affectionate Lord had deigned to gather us together and unite us, men so spiritually weak and from such diverse geographical and cultural backgrounds, we ought not split apart what God has gathered and united; on the contrary, we ought day by day to strengthen and stabilize our union, rendering ourselves one body with special concern for each other, in order to effect the greater spiritual good of our fellow men. For united spiritual strength is more robust and braver in any arduous enterprise than it would be if segmented.
The disciples of Jesus may have disagreed on many topics, just as this community of faith does. The purpose is not to change the other person, but to offer freedom and to respect what God is doing. God brings us together. God gathers and unites. We have to step out of ourselves, sometimes out of our small-minded ways, to strengthen and stabilize our union, and show special care for one another. This is for our spiritual good. Help God in his enterprise. Get out of your own way and build up one another in freedom and genuine care and service. May our prayer be that of Jesus: that we may be one, as you and I are one.”