Bottom line: Today we see gratitude for conflict. It makes us know our need for Jesus. He is our peace.
This summer, as you know, I am preaching a series of homilies on gratitude. It's easy to be grateful when things are going well, but what about when trials come? Last weekend we talked about gratitude during times of affliction. We focused specifically on the affliction of depression that seems to strike more and more people, especially our youth. Depression can paralyze. It can also bring a person to see their need for God. We've seen that practices such as meditation and Mass attendance, the rosary and Bible reading can help in the context of an overall recovery program. So gratitude even during affliction. Today I want to focus on another type of affliction, namely conflict.
I begin with an amusing story from my seminary days. I entered the seminary in the final year of Vatican II. Turmoil followed the Council, with Catholics dividing into liberal and conservative camps. We seminarians of course thought we would be the ones to bring things back together. I remember one of my classmates in Rome, right before heading back to the United States. "I can hardly wait," he said, "to get home and start working on all the polarization." Another seminarian spoke up, "Well, you can begin by getting a haircut."
Needless to say, we didn't solve the polarization. Resolving conflict involves more than pointing out how the other guy has gone wrong. Sometimes that only makes matters worse. Resolving conflict requires something more. We can that "something more" in today's second reading.
Paul was in the middle of a monumental conflict. The two sides had radically different ways of understanding the Hebrew Scriptures. St. Paul sees the solution in Christ. Jesus comes to break down the dividing wall. "In Christ Jesus you who once were far off have become near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace..."
To accept Jesus as our peace is not easy. It begins by recognizing ones own sins. And that our sins - yours and mine - are so serious they have nailed Jesus to the cross. We shrink from acknowledging our sins because that would give our opponent one more reason to write us off - or as we say today, to cancel the other person.
St Paul, however, is not afraid to admit his own sin. He had persecuted the Church. He was responsible for imprisonment and death of innocent men, women and children. The movie Paul the Apostle powerfully portrays Paul's remorse.
Paul's awareness of forgiveness gave him amazing compassion - even for people attacking him. As Paul says, Jesus is our peace.
Now, you and I are not St. Paul, but we can learn from him: gratitude in midst of conflict. Not by scoring points, but by pointing to Jesus. Not by seeing through the other person, but by actually seeing him. It's easy to see through other people. It's hard to see them. We need Jesus. In today's Gospel Jesus says, "Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while." Put away the cell phone. Spend time with Jesus.
When we come to Jesus, we find peace through forgiveness of sins. Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. Jesus is our peace.
To come to Jesus involves choice. That will be our theme for next week: gratitude for the gift of choice. We take choice for granted, but we shouldn't. The implications are huge. In talking about free choice, I will share how I learned the secret of a smile. That's for next Sunday.
Today we see gratitude for conflict. It makes us know our need for Jesus. He is our peace. Amen. .
Spanish Version (Word document)
From Archives (16th Ordinary Sunday - Year B):
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
Audio Files of Homilies (Simple Catholicism Blog)
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Other Priests' Homilies, Well Worth Listening:
Fr. Kurt Nagel
Fr. Frank Schuster
Fr. Brad Hagelin
Fr. Jim Northrop
Fr. Michael White
Fr Pat Freitag (and deacons of St. Monica)
Bishop Robert Barron
Parish Picture Album
MBC - Mary Bloom Center, Puno, Peru