That We May All Be One
A Reflection on the Gospel of Luke 11:15-26
Internet image from https://life-devotions.blogspot.com/2011/10/luke-1123-stand-united-in-christ.html
In the Gospel today, Jesus calls for us to gather, not scatter. It is a call to love. Jesus is not talking about some warm and fuzzy emotion, but a firm decision to seek the good of the other before our own, exemplified by Christ on the cross. Love is sacrificial in nature. To love means to give up our own personal desires, our wants and needs, to minister to the needs of the other first. Love in relationships is the total giving of one to the other without any expectation of a return in kind.
Love is the singular best description of the mystery of the Holy Trinity. God, the lover, looks to God the Son with such a tender intensity that He gives all that He is, sacrificially, to the Son. God the Son looks back at the Father with the same intensity. The two, in complete willed love, lose their identity in the love of the other. That “press of love”, that binds the two together, is God the Holy Spirit. The three identities are completely lost in the other. They are one.
Love, in relationship, cannot help but unify. Love gathers the three, the many, into one. The Church, the body of Christ, is enmeshed in that “press of love” within, and hidden in, the Blessed Trinity. Anything, or anyone, that scatter, through attacking those within the Church, cannot be doing the work of love, the work of God. It is not easy! Sin creeps in. That is why Jesus prays on the night of His betrayal:
“I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me.” (John 17:20–21 NABRE)
Jesus tells us in the Gospel today,
“Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.” (Luke 11:23 NABRE)
Do not be misled, to scatter is the work of the Satan. The root of the Hebrew word Satan (שׂטן - śṭn) means “to oppose,” “to slander,” or “to be hostile.” When a person or group engages in overt opposition through slander and hostility, it divides one person against another, one group against another, and creates an oft seemingly insurmoutable barrier. Such action is diabolical, the word that best describes Satan. Diabolical in Greek is διάβολος (diabolos). It comes from two words which together mean to, throw across or against.
How does Satan scatter? He engenders pride. Pride throws up a wall, wherein I am right and to not agree with me is wrong. Pride demands “my” rights against all others. Pride usually creates two or more factions that fall rapidly into descension, arguments, and scapegoating, the practice of singling out a person or group for blame and consequent retribution or isolation. This scattering often destroys any chance of real or meaningful discussion. When this occurs in our Church, Satan rejoices.
Our every action must find its ground in love; that we might gather instead of scatter. Love drives us to humility and opens our body and souls to listen, to engage in discourse, a give and take of ideas, a conversation. How can we hear Christ in the other if we deny a voice to anyone with whom we disagree? St Peter writes in his first letter.
Finally, all of you, be of one mind, sympathetic, loving toward one another, compassionate, humble. Do not return evil for evil, or insult for insult; but, on the contrary, a blessing, because to this you were called, that you might inherit a blessing. (1 Peter 3:8–9)
This does not mean that you compromise on the truth. However, we cannot convey that truth while locked in bitter physical or verbal attack. To admit that the other could be right is an act of humility, which pride cannot allow. Perhaps Christ is speaking to us from the other. We cannot act as the scribes and pharisees of our time, believing that we have God all figured out, our way. This is prideful and spiritually disastrous.
We also cannot successfully gather without the Lord’s help. The Lord tells us in Luke 11:21–22,
“When a strong man fully armed guards his palace, his possessions are safe. But when one stronger than he attacks and overcomes him, he takes away the armor on which he relied and distributes the spoils.”
We cannot achieve unity in love without God’s help. Human nature alone is not strong enough. All Satan needs is a crack in the door. The Sacraments, especially the Eucharist and Reconciliation, drive us to unity, humility, and more important, the grace to resist the tendency to scatter and subsist in love. How can we attack or belittle the other when they too have the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Christ in them? Who are we to condemn, isolate, and reject when we, who are also not worthy of God’s great mercy, have received mercy as true and complete gift? We cannot be the strongman alone. Origin writes,
If [our soul] neglects the grace that was received and entangles itself in secular affairs, immediately that unclean spirit returns and claims the vacant house for itself. (Origin Hom. Ex. 8.4)
There is a song, written by Fr Peter Scholtes in 1966, that we still occasionally sing in Mass. The refrain is,
“And they'll know we are Christians; By our love, by our love; Yes, they'll know we are Christians; By our love.” (Taylor)
Today and every day, especially when you feel the well of frustration and anger surface with anyone, but especially your fellow Catholics, ask yourself; will they know that you are Christian by your love? In prayer, and with the strength of Christ in the Sacraments, refuse the urge to scatter, and pray for the strength to gather with God the Son. That in Christ, through Baptism, we may be hidden within that “press of love” that is the Blessed Trinity, one God, forever. Jesus, calls us in the Gospel today to gather, to love,
“This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35 NABRE)
New American Bible Revised Edition (NABRE). Washington, DC: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011. Print.
Origen. Homilies on Genesis and Exodus. The Fathers of the Church. Ed. Hermigild Dressler. Trans. Ronald E. Heine. Vol. 71. Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 1982. Print.
Taylor, Joshua. "History of Hymns: 'They'll Know We Are Christians by Our Love'." Discipleship Ministries, 19 Jun. 1999, www.umcdiscipleship.org/articles/history-of-hymns-theyll-know-we-are-christians-by-our-love.