Here is the homily I gave to the deacons and their wives from the Diocese of Winona at a workshop addressing widowhood and celibacy in the diaconate. I hope all of you are blessed richly in the Lord!
Saturday, 4th Week of Lent, Cycle B
Homily to Deacons and Wives
March 21, 2015
Albert Lea, Minnesota
Jeremiah 11: 18-20; John 7: 40-53
“So a division occurred in the crowd because of him…”
Our Gospel this morning presents the question to all of us, “What causes divisions among us, among the people of God, indeed among humankind throughout our world?”
Not a question easily answered. Not a question that can be dismissed with a response like that of the Pharisees:
“Look and see that no prophet arises from Galilee.”
Indeed, when we are confronted with divisions in our world, in our Church, in our communities, in our families, even within ourselves as individuals, we need to know why. Why the rancor, the separation, the quick answers, the fall back into facile responses that blind us to the truth.
A recurrent theme in my own spiritual life this past year has been on this. I have been reflecting on Faith ever since our Holy Father, Pope Francis issued his encyclical Lumen Fideii – The Light of Faith – and the various aspects of faith the Holy Father describes, especially the unitive aspect of Faith.
Pope Francis reminds us:
Unity is superior to conflict and the whole is greater than the part.
Do we consider this when faced with conflict? Why do we choose division? What ultimately unites us? These are important questions for us in ministry, indeed in all of life.
Only love will unite us, nothing else.
Think of it: What is it that unites a husbands to a wife? Love. What is it that unites a parent to a child? Love. Every breath, every heartbeat, every moment of your existence is held together by divine Love. It is God’s gift and his gift is love. Without love, the only thing that unites us is sin, and the unity of sin is deceptive. Only love keeps us together, only divine love. It is God’s great gift to us.
But genuine love requires faith and shared faith enables love to endure. Again, think only about your marriages. Faith in each other enables the love that is present to endure through all the difficulties of life.
Faith identifies the presence of love.
Faith allows one to recognize the presence of love. Love in this way is united to faith. Without faith, we are blinded to the presence of love. Isn’t this what happened in today’s Gospel reading? The Pharisees were without faith, and because of this they could not recognize the love of God right in front of them. Instead, they were in darkness, a darkness that comes only from faithlessness. Sin is darkness and faith is light. The unity of darkness is deceptive; it may seem seamless yet it is obscure and false. The unity of sin is fragile for it results in fragmentation, divisiveness, entropy. The unity of love is strengthened by faith, faith in God, faith in Church, faith in our wives and husbands, faith in our bishop, faith in us and our calling.
Faithlessness is a choice for disunity.
To “break faith” is the choice to be in conflict. Do we consider this when we are faced with such a choice? Do I have faith in myself? Do I have faith in my spouse? Do I have faith in my bishop? Do I have faith in the Church? Do I have faith in God?
Our choice for or against unity is a choice for or against faith. It is a grave matter really, for it is a choice for or against love, ultimately divine love, a love which never leaves us. The choice of faithlessness is a choice to be blind to the presence of God, the divine presence, and divine gifts that are extended to us in so many ways each and every day.
Let us go forward, filled with faith! Let us remain united in the love which is ours by the gift of the Holy Spirit. Let no divisions exist among us.