Taking sides against one another has always been one of humanity’s greatest vices–but not as great as our weakness for turning that vice into virtue. This idea that my side is better than your side has been the cause of most wars throughout human history. This Sunday’s readings remind us that such wars can even be waged among friends and colleagues. Christ’s most loyal disciples were sometimes tempted to make themselves the brand rather than become servants to the Word of God. Paul had to redirect the leaders of “The Way” from thinking they were the source of its wisdom (1 COR 1:10-13, 17).
I urge you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree in what you say, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and in the same purpose. … For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with the wisdom of human eloquence, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its meaning.
Today that threat of division among faithful souls is alive and well, as we read in the media about hate and violence aimed at believers in different ideologies. Some haters even justify their hatred in writings called “manifestos,” which are just glorified reasons for hating anyone of a different faith, race or belief. Nothing new here, either. Hate is the oldest and most recycled human waste.
One brand of hate—anti-Semitism—is often formulated by adulterating Christ’s gospel message. Sunday’s reading (MT 4:12-23 OR 4:12-17) is about how Jesus continued spreading his good news among his brother Jews once John the Baptist was arrested for doing the same. This could conceivably be repurposed by some anti-Semite to say that since Jesus failed in his use of love to convert his brother Jews to this new way of thinking, revenge is mine, sayeth the Lord’s self-appointed judges.
He went around all of Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and curing every disease and illness among the people.
Some haters believe violence is the cure for what they perceive as diseased thinking. But those haters need to go back further in their Bible—into the prophecies of Isaiah (IS 8:23—9:3), whose living words have offered generation after generation the promise of freedom from slavery to our humanity.
For the yoke that burdened them, the pole on their shoulder, and the rod of their taskmaster you have smashed, as on the day of Midian.
Hatred is a tireless slave driver that imprisons by contagion. Faith in God gives us all the necessary tools to stay uncontaminated.