A plea for unity amid zealous division

3 mins read

Ava LalorSince early July, my diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana, has been hosting a summer series of Theology on Tap for the local young adult community. While we have been meeting in a parish parking lot instead of a bar or restaurant as the event name suggests, the topics of discussion have pierced my heart. This summer, we’ve been getting back to the basics of the Faith, focusing on the kerygma — the proclamation of the Good News of Christ — prayer, the Eucharist and the universal Church as the Body of Christ.

During the last of these talks, the speaker made a number of points that I have been sitting with in the days since.

In light of our political climate, she made a note to address the division in the Church and why we must reclaim the unity Christ desired.

So often we hear, “If you are pro-life, why don’t you care about immigrants?” Or, “So you focus on social justice issues? What about the millions of babies killed unjustly by abortion?”

We need to get away from these divisions, because, as the speaker reminded us, the Body of Christ makes up for what we as individuals lack. We each have a mission that God has entrusted to us. If your focus is on being a voice for the unborn, the Body of Christ will fill in the rest. If you spend your time advocating for the poor and marginalized, you don’t have to feel guilty about not spending all other hours protesting abortion, for the Body of Christ will fill in the rest.

We are the Body of Christ. Or so we need to remind ourselves. Yes, we have differences, and because of our fallen humanity, we will never see eye-to-eye all of the time. But unity has to start somewhere.

The Holy Spirit clearly wanted me to keep thinking about this topic, for this weekend’s homily by a visiting priest resonated with so much of what has been on my heart.

“There is a problem that can deny our salvation,” he preached. The basic answer? Pride — saying, “I am better than you/them,” that “I am right; you are wrong.” The priest called it a syndrome, a disorder that has tainted the human race and has even affected the Church.

Yes, pride leads to division, but humility leads to unity. Recognizing that no matter how zealous we may be, we always need to step back, take a good, long look at a crucifix, and ask God to pierce our hearts and reveal the truth to us. Are we walking the path he has set before us? Are we letting him lead and mold us so we can become the saints he so desires us to be? Or are we self-reliant in the name of a cause rather than Christ?

Now, don’t get me wrong. This is not a plea for relativism. Truth is truth, which means some things are right while other things are wrong.

But we need to take more opportunities to truly examine ourselves, to make sure we are walking in the way of humility, for the sake of our own souls and to hopefully help others along the journey. Perhaps, most importantly, we need to stop calling people the enemy. We see this in politics and in different groups of people of faith — sadly even, and not rarely, within the Church. That is not of God. But there is an enemy. His name is Satan. And if we truly believe in what Jesus taught, we know the battle was won when Christ died and defeated sin and death. So if we truly live with this truth in mind, that means that no matter how much we disagree with people, we need to remember that Christ established our Church for unity.

So, how are you doing? It’s been a rough year, and it’s not going to lighten up any time soon. I don’t know about you, but there are moments where I am simply exhausted. Yes, exhausted from living amid a pandemic and the changes it has brought about. But I’m mostly exhausted by the division I see in our Church and in our world.

We are on the offense of the battle for the kingdom, not the defense. So what are we bringing into battle? True charity, I hope. A lot of humility, too. Grace, for ourselves and others. And authentic trust that if we put the voice of God first — truly put the soft, gentle whisper of the Holy Spirit first — we can do our part for his glory. Let’s just try to get to heaven, everyone. Together.

Ava Lalor is assistant editor for Our Sunday Visitor and editor for Radiant magazine.