Fifth Sunday of Easter, Year A-2011

From Vincentian Encyclopedia
I came into this world for judgment, so that those who do not see might see, and those who do see might become blind (Jn. 9:39—NAB)

Conflict is almost as old as the Church, not to say, humanity (cf. Mk. 10:41; Gen. 3:12; 4:8). In the early Christian community, the Hellenists complained that their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. The apostle Paul spoke of spying false brothers and of his confrontation with the apostle Peter (Gal. 2:4, 11-14; cf. Acts 15:1-35). There were divisions among Christians in Corinth, and the disagreement between Paul and Barnabas turned so ugly they ended up parting ways (1 Cor. 1:10-13; Acts 15:37-40).

By the grace of God, however, the crises stemming from the aforementioned conflicts presented to the Church opportunities for growth and development. And so arose, in accordance with the Twelve’s proposal and the community’s approval, the new service of the Seven, reputable men, filled with the Spirit and wisdom. Likewise, the validity of Paul’s ministry to the Gentiles was officially confirmed and accepted. And the factions at Corinth occasioned clarifications about teaching and practice with regard, for example and among other things, the holy Eucharist, while Paul’s going one way, and Barnabas’ another, meant, of course, additional evangelization.

Hence, conflicts, for all the serious havoc they may wreak are not altogether bad. If we keep in mind that it is not about us or about our good, interest, ambition or gain, nor is it about our authority or leadership, but rather about someone bigger and greater, then perhaps we will be able to see more readily the distinction between criticism and disloyalty and to acknowledge as well both how crucial it is for those in authority to listen to dissenting voices, in order to weigh carefully what they are saying, and what a healthy role dissent may play in the life of the Church [1].

No, it is not about us, and so let not our hearts be troubled and let us not get extremely defensive, and lose our calm. It is about someone who can defend himself and protect his own, albeit not in the usual ways of men who make use of all kinds of weapons, including lies. It is about Jesus, the way, the truth and the life, about the one whom St. Vincent de Paul imitated in dispensing explanations rather than condemnations to those who misunderstand and are mistaken [2]. It is about someone who disagreed with the leadership of the religious establishment and who unmasked their hypocrisy, on account of which he was condemned and led to death on the cross, a victim among many of those who did know how to handle dissent. It is about him who pardons his persecutors and wins them over, about him who is our peace, having broken down the dividing wall of enmity and dissension through his self-sacrificing love so that he might create in himself one new person out of disagreeing and separated peoples (Eph. 2:14-15). It is about the Eucharistic Jesus, the “living stone, rejected by human beings but chosen and precious in the sight of God,” who draws us to himself so that he may make us like living stones, too, that are being built into a spiritual house and a holy priesthood that is capable of offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God.

Do we see him who ought to be our main concern, our pain and sorrow even?


NOTES:

[1] Robert P. Maloney, “Some Helpful Distinctions in Catholic Life,” Seasons in Spirituality (Hyde Park, NY: New City Press, 1998) 109.
[2] P. Coste XI, 34-37.