A few days ago, I went to visit one of our parishioners in the hospital. I was chatting with a hospital worker who commented that living in the United States was hitting the lottery. Living in the United States is indeed a blessing. However, more and more we hear of discord and division among people.
The media has labeled this “identity politics.” People seem to feel an association with a group who’s needs are not being met. Dialog between groups seems to be decreasing and growing in hostility. We seem far from the famous words of President John Kennedy, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for our country.” (Inaugural Address, January 20, 1961).
Indeed, division and strife are a worldwide phenomenon. What can we as individuals do about this? The answer is, of course, as individuals, there is little or nothing we can do to improve the world. Individualism is the problem; unity is the answer.
Human beings have a need to believe in and be part of something greater than themselves. Christ came into the world to fulfill that need in us. At the center of our religion is the idea that Jesus Christ, the Divine Word, is with us in the Eucharist. Christians traditionally refer to the Eucharist as the “Sacrament of Unity.” That truth is built into the Mass as part of the Eucharistic Prayer. After the consecration, we pray, “that, partaking of the Body and Blood of Christ, we may be gathered into one by the Holy Spirit.” The opening prayer of today’s Mass stresses the centrality of unity in Christian life, “O God, who cause the minds of the faithful to unite in a single purpose, grant your people to love what you command and to desire what you promise.”
Division and isolation have always been with humanity. Perhaps, in our modern world, these problems are getting worse. How do we respond?
As individuals, there is not much, if anything, we can do. As part of the body of Christ, we can change the world. We need to think about our unity with the Church. Do I really think about the reality of Christ present in the Mass, in the Eucharist? Do I go to Mass, to Confession, do I pray every day? Do I reflect on what my goals in life are and are those goals consistent with what Christ teaches through the Catholic Church?
It’s easy to take our faith for granted. It’s easy to take for granted the blessings we have from God. In our Gospel parable today (Luke 13:22 – 30) Christ says to the complacent, “I do not know where you are from.” Where am I from? Am I firmly rooted in my faith, in the Church? As Catholic Christians, we have been given the tremendous blessing of being part of the Body of Christ. Christ our head speaks to us and wants to draw us deeper into that unity. We have been given a great gift from God. In addition to the material blessings God gives us, we have the enduring presence of Christ in the Eucharist, in the Sacraments of the Church. We need to respond to His gift.