Easter 06, Year C
- The community of believers was of one heart and mind (Acts 4:32)
The Christian does not cease to be a human being, of course—basically good but subject also to temptation and sin. A Christian, as Martin Luther said, is at the same time a saint and a sinner (simul justus et peccator).
Sinners that we Christians are, it is not surprising that we tend to look out only for our own interests and thus sow discord and harvest conflicts and wars (cf. Jas. 4:1-3). The desire of some Christians, for example, to occupy more prominent positions leads to others becoming indignant at them (cf. Mat. 20:20-28). Also, because some consider themselves very important and carrying more weight (this could spell the heaviness that prevents them from ascending and which may be due in part to their being associated with more distinguished, more eloquent, more learned or more influential personages), rivalries and even divisions arise that show contempt for the church of God and which do not make for the discerning of the body of the Lord (cf. 1 Cor. 1:10-31; 11:17-34). It is a good thing that nowadays not much is heard about Christians waging war against other Christians, as was the case during the times of St. Vincent de Paul, who said during the repetition of prayer on July 24, 1655 (cf. number 125):
- I like to reiterate the recommendation that I made,
- and which will never be sufficiently made, that we pray for peace,
- so that God may be pleased to unite the hearts of Christian
- rulers. There are wars throughout Catholic kingdoms: war in
- France, in Spain, in Italy, in Germany, in Sweden, in Poland,
- attacked on three fronts, in Ireland, in the poor mountains
- and places hardly inhabited. Scotland is not much better;
- about England, everyone knows its sad situation. War all
- over, misery everywhere. In France, so many people are
- suffering. Oh Savior! Oh Savior! If after three months of
- war over here, we have had so much misery in the heart of
- France, where provisions used to be abundant in just every
- place, imagine the sufferings of those poor people at the
- borders who have been enduring these miseries for twenty
- years! Yes, it has been twenty years that they have
- continuously had this war; if they sow, they are not sure
- they will be able to harvest; the troops come and pillage
- and steal everything; and what the soldiers do not steal,
- the constables get hold of and take for themselves. After
- all this, what can be done? What will happen? The only
- thing left is to die. If true religion exists, ... what
- am I saying, oh miserable me! ... If there is true religion,
- God pardon me for this! I am speaking materially. It is
- among them, among this poor people that the true religion is
- kept, the living faith ....
That the genuine religion is kept amidst disagreements and wars between Christian rulers is just another indication that the Christian sinner is likewise a saint. Indeed, Christ’s sublime love, Christ’s amazing grace, saves sinners, finding the lost, giving sight to the blind through the light that is God’s glory and through the lamp that is the Lamb. This self-emptying love, this wonderful grace, makes it possible for Christians to recover their original harmony, come to a unanimous resolution of dissensions and engage in a constructive rather than destructive debate that clarifies rather than confuses. Christians today are capable too, with the Holy Spirit's guidance, of coming to an agreement about issues in the same manner that the participants in the council of Jerusalem were able to reach an accord.
It is because the love of Christ impels us, leaving us no option. For through Christ God has reconciled us to himself and given us the ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:14-19). And if we are told, “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him,” this means, it seems to me, that Christian love does not tolerate any alienation—be it with regard one’s own self or with regard to others—and it cannot but lead to reconciliation and communion.
And, surely, reconciliation and communion are proven true in the accord that asks that the parties concerned do what the true followers of St. Vincent must always be eager to do, namely, to be mindful of the poor and in so doing to take part in the practice of true religion (Gal. 2:10; cf. Jas. 1:27).