Doesn’t the second reading today- Paul’s letter to the Corinthians-get at an issue that is still very common today? Way back then, Christians were tempted to splint into factions, just as we are now today. Factions are differences taken up a notch. Among all who call themselves Christian, there are factions; among those who call themselves Catholic, there are factions; among those who call themselves family, there are factions. Some Christians believe that abortion is wrong; some do not. Some Catholics believe going to Sunday Mass is important; some do not. Some in our family favor climate control laws, some do not. These are just a few of the issues that divide-faction-us. As Catholics we have the teaching authority of the Church to guide us as to what is “right” but even there, some of us do not “agree” with all that the church teaches. So how do we get out of this mess? Paul, so correctly, emphasizes that our unity should be based on Jesus Christ and his cross, and not on anything else. Boy, does this give us a big clue as to how to handle factions and disagreements in our families and in the world.
The first part is to remember our role model is Jesus Christ. When we, as we frequently do, meet people who are not in agreement with our beliefs or our view of life what should we do? Let’s start by going back to the basics, to the basic teachings of Jesus which most everyone can agree with. Find the common ground based on Jesus’s life. Your Christian friend thinks abortion is fine. But does she think that saving human lives is a good thing? Yes? Excellent! So you can disagree on abortion but agree on saving lives and encourage each other to actually do something about it. Your children think going to church is a waste of time? But do they believe it is important to be kind and charitable to others? Yes? Excellent! So you can disagree on the importance of Mass but agree on the need to be kind and charitable and encourage each other to actually do something about it. You and daughter get into “strong disagreements” on climate control. But do you both think that taking care of the planet God has blessed us with is something we should all be doing? Yes? Excellent! So you can disagree on climate control but agree on taking care of our planet and encourage each other to actually do something about it. As one philosopher said “The moral life is like a building; you can’t build the fifth floor until the lower floors are built”. Find the lowest common floor and build from there. Isn’t that exactly what Jesus did with everyone except the pompous Pharisees?
The second part to remember is that the cross is an important part of Jesus’ life and message. Remember that fact when your Christian friend disagrees with you on abortion, or your children don’t go to Mass, or your daughter thinks climate control is communistic. You can use the disappointment/pain, and sometimes even the agony, of these situations to offer them up to the Father, just as Jesus did, for those who are disappointing or paining you. Remember, Jesus throughout his life never forced himself or his views on people-even though he knew the truth-but always respected their personal freedom. We, who certainly cannot claim to always know the truth ourselves, should do the same. We can, and should, tell people where we stand, yet find a common ground to go forward together…and we can find that common ground in Jesus’ example of love and concern, with deeds, for all. When we receive Our Lord in Holy Communion this Sunday, let’s ask him to help us find common ground with those with whom we disagree rather than just dismissing them as lost.