They say if you put a number of people of people in a room before long they’ll form into conflicting groups. Tribal division is deeply rooted in us and, despite the veneer of progress, its as prevalent today. Christ asks us to try to redeem that, by being peacemakers and loving our enemies. In our Gospel, He gives us an example by ministering to the foreign Canaanite woman. Lets confess any divisiveness we create and perpetuate..
There’s a joke about the Protestant-Catholic division in Northern Ireland which is funny, but also shows how much we need to break down the scandalous Christian divide in our world. A member of Ian Paisley’s Free Presbyterian church at death’s door converted to Catholicism. There was uproar among his friends who pleaded with him: “don’t do it. We wouldn’t mind you joining any other church, but becoming a Papist!”. “Well”, he said, ” To tell the truth, I’m dying of cancer, just days to live. So I figured it was better for one of them to die rather than one of us”. The same might be said of the other side.
Joking apart, divisions among churches cast a shadow over all faiths. Narrow tribalism was a temptation Christ himself faced. The apostles urged him to minister only to Israel and exclude the Canaanite woman. Though he tested her faith he’d no intention of doing that. In the early church people said of Christians: “see how they love each other”. Would they say the same about us?
Recently I read in a biography of Roy Keane an account of a famous match in Belfast a few world cups ago. The Republic went up there needing a draw to qualify. Keane described the hatred they met when they went onto the pitch: “Fenian bastards, taigs, bloody papists, we’ll make sure you won’t go to the world cup”. Most of the team, born in England, were bewildered. They asked: “Roy, what’s this about?”; he replied “how long have your got”.
Doubtless, if one tried to explain the cause of division among Christians in Northern Ireland, the roots would ultimately be found deep in political causes. But if the churches contributed in any way they must beat their breasts. Now is the time to do so in an EU and Vatican 11 world. For unless we’re loving people and peacemakers, excluding no one, we’re not Christian at all. In our first reading God says his house is a house of prayer for “all peoples”. And Paul in the second reading talks of his pride in his mission to include the pagans in Christ’s kingdom. Similarly, Jesus extended his healing mission to the alien Canaanite woman. Our Christian calling is to promote similar love and unity among people of every race, church and nation. Christ came to unite a divided world; we must further his peace and unity.
It’s not better than one of them should die rather than one of us. We should all walk hand in hand to the larger world cup, eternal salvation. For that’s the true destiny of our little Island and world, to bear witness to God’s unqualified and all-embracing love. And in this Christian love is not a matter of feeling, its a conscious decision to reach out to others, even our enemies. As Christ opened his arms to all on the cross, we must be a sign to the whole earth that’s its not a them and us world, but we’re all one. The divisions of a violent war-torn world belong to the evil one and his kingdom. Our Christian duty is to help Christ redeem the great human evil of divisive hatred. For the fallen world divides us and leaves us empty at last but he’s lord of all-inclusive love, goodness, peace, unity and happy togetherness both for this world and forever and ever amen. So as God’s people called to all inclusive love, to heal and redeem our broken, fallen and divided world lets profess our one faith..
Prayers of the Faithful
For our holy Father the Pope and all leaders of Christendom and other faiths and philosophies that they may rise above all narrow violent divisions and reach mutual understanding and fellowship..
For our civil leaders North and South of the border that they may continue to come together in reconciliation, understanding and mutual affirmation and so continue a deeper process of peace..
For our young people that free from prejudice based on race, color, nation or creed they may promote unity wherever they go and so help to heal our divided world in the Spirit of God..
For ourselves, in our homes, work places and areas may we be channels of peace, love and unity, especially among our children.
For the sick, the aged, the lonely and the depressed that they may know God’s comfort and healing care through our reaching out to them in love..
For the dead that they may come to the unity, happiness and peace of the heavenly mansions through our prayers for them here..
and we ask all these our prayers through Christ the Prince of Peace forever and ever amen.
There is a story told of a Rabbi in Auchwitch who saved a Nazi guard from being killed by inmates after the camp was liberated. “To kill him, you’ll have to pass over my dead body”, he said. He showed that forgiveness and forbearance that is the mark of all true peacemakers. For as the song, and Our Lady of Medjugorje, says peace starts in each human heart. Lets start that process in our own hearts now as we pray to Mary, Queen of Peace..Hail Mary