Quarrels, suspicion, resentment, stubbornness, and fighting over things that don’t matter… do these ever occur in your family, in your workplace, and yes, in your parish? What feelings of bitterness exist in our hearts and souls that cause these divisions to keep us from coming together and sharing a spirit of hope and unity?
Differences of opinion do occur. Quarrels are unavoidable. But our Lord Christ Jesus calls us to oneness – to harmony with those around us. At lunch this Sunday, why not share and encourage the approach that King David instructed his own family to adopt in Psalm 133:
“How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity! It is like the precious oil on the head, running down upon the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down over the collar of his robes. It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion. For there the Lord ordained His blessing, life forevermore.” (Psalm 133:1-3)
Note how King David encourages his family to live together in harmony. His counsel goes beyond simply not being at odds with one another. For us today, his words challenge us to pursue deeper relationships – taking pleasure in one another.
The psalmist’s words make reference to the precious oil used to anoint the kings and high priests of ancient Israel. It would descend from their heads down to their garments. Filled with robust perfume, its fragrance would have been pleasing and refreshing. Do we live close enough to our great God that we can catch the fragrant ointment descending from Him? Do we, in turn, offer ourselves as precious sources of His holy oil? Do those in our midst discern a fragrant aroma in our presence? Does our bouquet honor our brothers and sisters by offering God’s grace and joy as His gifts?
Likewise, King David referred to Hermon, the highest mountain peak in Palestine. From its snow-capped summit, when the surrounding land is parched, its refreshing dew descends upon the mountains of Zion, offering refreshment to those seeking to quench their thirst. Do we live close enough to our great God so that the refreshing dew of His grace descends upon our souls? Do we serve as His vessels of fragrant and fruitful praise, enabling others to see our love and respect for them and feel at peace? Is Christ among us in our relationships with others?
When the people of God join together in His Holy Name and seek His righteousness, three blessings are evident: 1) We are of one mind in His truth; 2) We are of one heart and share His mutual affection; and 3) We work together with His Holy Spirit to ensure all come to know and live in His Kingdom. In unity, we experience God’s goodness and beauty. We receive pleasure and dwell in His eternal blessings.
In John 17, Jesus prayed His great High Priestly prayer. He revealed that the world would hate those who hope and believe in Him. Because life can be difficult, in verse 15, He asks His Father “protect them from the evil one.” In verse 21, He asks His Father “that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in Me and I am in You, may they also be in Us, so that the world may believe that You have sent Me.” (John 17:21) From these words, we are assured that the unity of Christ Jesus with His children persuades our skeptical world that He is the Son of God.
In closing, let us remind our families during Sunday’s Lunch that our backgrounds and personalities can prevent us from always getting along with everyone. St. Paul was aware of this weakness when he shared in Romans 12:18: “If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” In response, we must ask whether we can commit to persevere, in spite of our mutual difficulties, with a spirit of peace for those we encounter. Let us assure our family and friends that God continually calls us to restore our broken and severed relationships. Are we willing to be vigilant and heed His “call to oneness”? Do we value a spirit of harmony, unity, and accord? If so, St. Paul guides our efforts today, just as he did 2,000 years ago: “…whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith.” (Galatians 6:10) Amen!
[Photos taken by Fr. George Tsahakis]