In today’s gospel Jesus proclaims, “...if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.” (Mark 3:25). The gospel says it I believe it, my experience reveals it to be true, it makes sense – and ultimately such divided houses do indeed fall. But it is my experience that sometimes it takes a long time to collapse and in the interim, living in the house is an increasingly difficult and unpleasant time.
The Roman Empire divided into West and East and eventually collapsed. The ekkleisa katholica divided into the Latin West and the Byzantine East. It hasn’t collapsed, but then again the division of the 11th century was but a foreshadowing of the 16th century Reformation divisions – and that house continues to divide. The colonies and England: not all divisions lead to a collapse house – just a new house, maybe a more interesting neighborhood. The southern and northern states: sometimes the house is restored, or maybe the divisions just linger into modern American life.
The Franciscan house has divided against itself. From the time of Francis, the one Order has become three: the OFMs, OFM Conventuals, and OFM Capuchins.
Many of us can tell the stories of our own house, our families, in which division left the house broken, unreconciled.
Many of us can tell the stories of the divisions within our own lives that have left us broken.
Within our beloved Church the fault lines are evident in many ways and many places. It is not a division, for example, between those who prefer to celebrate Mass in Latin vs. in English, it is the lack of charity when one side looks at the other as less authentically Catholic because of their preference.
It is the lack of charity when the one who is active in the Pro Life/anti-abortion efforts looks askance at the one who is active in affordable housing or runs the outreach center – “don’t they understand being Pro Life is the preeminent issue, the only issue.” And the Catholic activist against the death penalty wonders where they stand in the house of the Church.
Perhaps originating with St. Augustine, but certainly spoken by Pope John XXIII, “In essentials unity, in nonessentials liberty, and in all things, charity.” In all things charity, in all things Christ, the one who is the mediator of the new covenant (Hebrews 9:15), the one who is charity, caritas, love itself (1 John 4:7-8).
There will be division, disagreements, and in the end decisions. On this day, let us all be reminded of the sanctity of life from natural conception to its natural end – and all the points in between. It is an essential of our faith. And as important, may we be the love of Christ to those whose choices place them on the other side of a division.
Without the love of Christ, things fall apart. The center will not hold.