If you have spent any time at all in church ministry, you know how easy it is for disagreements to surface in the local church. Just spend a little time at a parish council meeting, leading your Catholic school parent-teacher group, or volunteering to get a new parish ministry off the ground. In a place that should be so united by the love of Christ, why is it so easy for people to be divided by rifts over funding, music preferences, and what Father preached on last Sunday?
There were no parish council meetings in Saint Paul's time, but without a doubt there was drama in the early Church. Today's First Reading from the Acts of the Apostles shows how painfully difficult the growth of the early Church must have been. (See Acts 13:43-52.) Praise God for the steadfast devotion of the Apostles who were not afraid of responding to these rifts both inside and outside the faith community.
But do you know what the Apostles did in the face of such division? They fixed their hearts on Jesus' words from the Gospel of Saint John:
"My sheep hear my voice;
I know them, and they follow me.
I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish.
No one can take them out of my hand" (John 10:27-29).
Saints Paul and Barnabas knew that the Church would never be completely free from division or disagreement. Not then. Definitely not now.
So what do we do when these divisions surface in our own local parishes, especially when we so desire to be that "instrument of salvation" that the Saints reference today? (See Acts 13:47, Isaiah 49:6.)
Don't let the drama take your gaze off the Shepherd.
When rifts or past wounds rear their ugly heads, remind yourself and your fellow parishioners that if we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and pray for His gentleness in our hearts, the members of our flock may still disagree, but we will do so with far greater charity.
Pray this prayer for peace today.
Karen Schultz hails from the Land of 10,000 lakes, where she is often found in or near one of them. As a doula, lactation educator, and FertilityCare Practitioner, she finds joy in helping women to embrace the gift of their bodies. Downtime is found in quiet adoration chapels, farmers markets and gardens, listening to bluegrass music, and embracing the diversity of Minnesota’s seasons. You can find out more about her here.