Striving for unity in all seasons

| Deacon Gordon Bird | November 21, 2018 | 0 Comments
Fall, seasons, leaves

iStock/LARISABLINOVA

The robust, seasonal fluctuations we now experience come with celebrations and holidays — both secular and religious. As we press on in November, making adjustments to colder weather patterns, we honor veterans, celebrate Thanksgiving and, with a Catholic slant, prepare for a new liturgical year via Advent. The season offers an opportunity to calm the storms in some relationships, closing the gap from trivial to large matters that can sometimes divide us as family, co-workers and, yes, even fellow parishioners.

Unifying this division starts with looking in the mirror. I’m personally reminded of this with an example from C.S. Lewis’ “The Great Divorce.” There is a compelling remark made by his guide on a dreamlike visit to the portals of heaven: “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’”

A personal, loving God allows our desires and choices — good, bad or indifferent — and respects our free will. Are there times when we choose to impose our will on others at the expense of the relationship? Or, do we even lose some people at “hello”? (Granted, none of us wants to sacrifice truths, principles, values and non-negotiables as Catholics for the sake of being nice.) Narrowing the gap on what divides us, however, generally takes more than our personal wits and one-upmanship. It takes “agape” — self-sacrificial love, a kind of love that wills the good of the other — God’s will be done for the other’s good. We can learn this from Jesus’ example — and his longest prayer recorded in the Gospels.

The breadth and depth of the prayer of Jesus for unity is beyond the limits of the finite, human mind. Yet, Jesus did reach out to God the Father for the sake of all believers in his petition: “I do not pray for these only, but also for those who believe in me through their word, that they may all be one; even as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they may also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me”
(Jn 17:20-21).

In this high priestly prayer of Jesus, in which he first prayed for his Twelve Apostles “that they may be one,” his attention then turned from them as he prayed for essentially a larger result: the unity of the universal Church. More than 2,000 years later, we deal with this challenge of living undivided as Christians within a secular environment. In this atmosphere, only a devout prayer life provides the spiritual oxygen, actionable fortitude and prevailing hope to press on in the midst of division.

In the faith journey of Catholic Watchmen — as spiritual leaders, providers and protectors — we must take all things to prayer and employ the necessary action to help the world we are “in” — a world we are often reminded to be “in,” not “of,” yet “for.” The world of pleasure, wealth, power and honor often divides people in their relationships with others — and with God. This is separate from the natural world of God’s goodness, beauty and truth, although it needs our astute stewardship.

Given one of the salient truths that “life is hard,” how does one solve such division? At a recent Catholic Watchmen brotherhood gathering, we watched a production on Vimeo of Michael Naughton, the director of the Center for Catholic Studies at the University of St. Thomas, titled “Fortified Man — Being Catholic in a Secular World.” As typical guys, trying to learn and assess how we could better “achieve” in the secular world as Catholic men, surprisingly we took away from the talk a different approach to amending division, starting with ourselves. We were guided on the importance to embrace habits of “receivement.”

As the norm, we split off in small groups and pondered some of the key points: developing habits of resting and receiving that provide a capacity to have both exterior and interior silence; celebrating and protecting all of the Lord’s Day; and reaching out to serve those in the margins. This means prayer, keeping the Sabbath holy and works of mercy on the home front. Meanwhile, in the workplace, we should strive for excellence, produce good works to serve others, and create more than what we have been given — “good wealth.”

Live a life undivided at home, work, church and in community — a fortified Catholic watchman. And this should not only be over the holidays or during commemorations, celebratory times, special and ordinary liturgical seasons, but at all times. This unites.

Deacon Bird ministers at St. Joseph in Rosemount and assists the Catholic Watchmen movement of the archdiocese’s Office of Evangelization. As a permanent deacon ordained in December 2017, he and his wife, DiAnn, are also members of All Saints in Lakeville. They have two married children and four grandchildren. Reach him at gordonbird@rocketmail.com. Learn about the archdiocese’s Catholic Watchmen initiative at rediscover.archspm.org/the-catholic-watchmen or at facebook.com/thecatholicwatchmen.

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Category: Catholic Watchmen, Commentary