Differences and divisions

emaus02There is a fine line between differences and divisions. Think about our own families – the kids are different, unique and that what makes them remarkable and fascinating. In my family growing up, the middle child Patricia, very different from her older sister Kathy, and her favorite brother – that would be me – and the fact that I was the only brother is but a secondary detail. Patricia was always aware of the differences and, on occasion, would proclaim, “I am adopted.” On occasion we would agree, although she was a dead ringer for Grandma Kate at the same age. Those differences were part of what made us unique and what made us family. They never became divisions.

There are many families whose differences, circumstances, choices, and more have led to deep abiding divisions where people have cut themselves off from one another, never again to speak unless it is legally necessary or impossible to avoid.

And there are lots of families in the middle. Differences which take them each on amazing life journeys , take them to difference cities and places, lead them to experiences so different that after the tales have been told, there is that awkward silence in which one wonders if there is anything in common anymore with their sibling that had led a so-called ordinary life. Has experience and the intervening years let differences slowly become divisions? And in those awkward silences lays a tipping point. A time to remember that what we hold in common is often a deeper story. A story that is the foundation of what make us family, a community, a church, to be whole, complete, to be one – the oneness for which Jesus prays.

All this and far more is at play in the book “Divergent,” The novel and its movie counterpart is set in a post-apocalyptic Chicago in which survivors divide into five factions based on their dispositions: Abnegation, for the selfless; Amity, for the peaceful; Candor, for the honest; Dauntless, for the brave; and Erudite, for the intelligent. Each year, all sixteen-year-olds take an aptitude test that describes the faction for which they are best suited. After receiving the results, they can decide whether to remain with their family’s faction or transfer to a new faction – never again to be family as they were. There is even a group called “Factionless” who are forced to live in poverty on the streets of the city.

The siblings Trish and Caleb are both children of Abnegation parents. On their day to choose, Caleb selects Erudite; Trish chooses Dauntless. There is a moment when they later meet, their growing differences lead them to that awkward silence, when Bravery and Intelligence are somehow divided as though they is nothing to say to each other. Will their world ever find wholeness, oneness, unity? Will the whole Divergent storyline play out to find the deeper story. The one that will make their divided world one.

In the first reading, Moses is speaking to the people of Israel. After 40 years journey in the desert they stand at the banks of the River Jordan, ready to cross into the promised land. He is well aware that right at this moment they are one, the qahal Yahweh, the people of God. Across those water will amazing adventures and ordinary life – people will be dauntless, erudite, peaceful, honest, and selfless. But will they be one? And so he reminds them of their common past, the deep stories they share – especially how God cared for them and gave them manna – “that not by bread alone does one live, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of the LORD.” Moses is reminding them there is a common story, a family story that is deeper than the stories of the tribes of Levi, Judah, Reuben, Joseph, Benjamin, and the others.

It was as St. Paul reminds a very divided Christian community in Corinth who is even making the gathering for Eucharist a source of division within the community, within the Body of Christ.

Because the loaf of bread is one,
we, though many, are one body,
for we all partake of the one loaf.

There is a story that is deeper than the life of the Corinthians, Romans, Galatians, Ephesians, Thessalonians, and the rest. Will they be one body, one people, qahal Yahewh, the people of God?

Today, we Catholics celebrate the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, Corpus Christi, when we honor our belief, our trust in Jesus’ words: “Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me.” We hold this Eucharist to mysteriously, amazingly, and wonderfully be the Real Presence of Christ – the source and the summit of our life in faith. And I think we Catholics rightly and truly are called to celebrate Corpus Christi – even as others in the Christian family do not share our belief. And then comes that tipping point…

We choose. We can be that sibling whose life journey has taken them to the source and summit of Christian life, who has had the amazing experience of receiving Christ in the Eucharist, and who wants our brothers and sisters to know what we know…. and in our enthusiasm create that awkward moment where we remind them we are divided – we are Catholic, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Anglicans, Baptists, Methodists, Pentecostals, and more. Or we can remind ourselves, that the Source and Summit of our life, the Eucharist, stands upon something deeper; a deeper story that God so loved the world– the love of God we each are called to be to each other – that we all may be One

There is a fine line between differences and divisions. Every family member brings their own treasury of amazing moments from their journey. Every family has its awkward moments. Every family has it deeper stories that bind and hold safe. This day, may we deeply celebrate our amazing Eucharist, may we see what we are, and become what we see – the Body of Christ. Tomorrow let us celebrate the stories of our brothers and sisters in Christ. Let us be One tomorrow in what ways we can, that one day we will gather at the One Table, forever celebrating that we are one body, qahal Yahewh, the people of God.

1 thought on “Differences and divisions

  1. 1 Corinthians 1:13 asks “Is Christ divided?” this is one of the quotes I often throw into the conversation with fellow Orthodox believers, when they try to distance themselves from other Christians (Catholics, Protestants or Armenian Apostolic believers).
    In Berlin, I see there are plans to build a church, mosque and synagogue under one roof…this will be interesting. We should be looking at what unites rather than on that which divides us.

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