Have you ever noticed that divisions between people generally exist upon lines of privilege or hardship? It’s true. Take any two groups and see what keeps them separate. It’s nearly always that one has something the other doesn’t, or one is suffering in ways the other isn’t. Eliminate those things, and while each group may remain distinct, the animosity and bitterness between them vanishes and they get along quite well.
Of course, that also means that when a group suddenly finds itself in a time of difficulty other, similar, groups swiftly try to distance themselves and work to proclaim their distinction from it. You see it on the news all the time. A politician, business, organization, or celebrity is found to have done something wrong, and others swiftly speak up, saying, “I/We would never do something like that! I/We are different!”
And perhaps that’s true. And perhaps slowly the ones who obtain influence and power are those that can be trusted. But it’s not an attitude or practice the Church can afford. Unfortunately, we sometimes do it too.
Historically we were pretty bad about it. We have had denominations fighting amongst each other, ad bitter rivalries which lingered for years and years. I’ve sat with parishioners who described times in their childhood when they, and children from another doctrine, would throw rocks at one another.
Now times have changed. It’s better now. The leaders from various denominations gather quite often in mutual support and love. The lines between denominations are all but vanished in families, as they blend and mix. It’s a time where we are able to stand and proclaim, and truly proclaim, that most important aspect of Christian faith:
We are ALL part of the Body of Christ!
And yet, every now and again, the divisions rear up in our hearts and minds, revealing our own failure to be that unified body.
Most notably, in recent times, we see the struggles of the Roman Catholic church in our province, as faithful parishioners find their church buildings being sold to pay for crimes committed by some of their leaders. We sit and read the details in online articles, or hear it discussed on the news. I’m sure a number of opinions exist about the rightness or wrongness of what is happening. And I’m also sure that many of us are thankful, in the depths of our hearts, that it’s happening to them, and not us.
But we’re wrong. It’s happening to us too.
We are the faithful disciples of Christ. We are His Body. We share in His Baptism and in His Eucharist. So, at what point can we honestly point a finger at any other group of Christians and say, “It’s them, not us.” As Paul tells us, “The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” We are the family of God. What happens to one of us affects all the others. You must know that to be true.
After all, do you think that all those outside the Church really distinguish between Anglican or Roman Catholic or United or Pentecostal? One collar looks the same as any other. Or do you think that God distinguishes one above another? The successes of one are the successes of all. Even more so the failures.
As I look at our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters, feeling betrayed and cast aside, I know that we cannot pay what is owed, nor save their buildings from sale. But I firmly believe that they cannot be left feeling alone. They are part of Christ’s family: our family. Their sadness is our sadness. Their pain is our pain. We must, as one body, tell them, “You are loved. With us you always have a home.”