III Sunday in Ordinary Time
26 January 2020
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness…”
In 1859 Charles Dickens penned perhaps one of the most famous novels of all time – A Tale of Two Cities. He tells the story of events leading up to and during the French Revolution. So many different themes are found in this book – hope, resurrection, violence, class struggle … One of the themes that emerges is the necessity of sacrifice … that personal loves and loyalties must be sacrificed for the good of a nation…
Right now, in our country, it is truly an historic time … the President of the United States has been impeached by Congress – one of only three ever in our country’s history. It is historic but we are so deeply divided. And in this climate it is interesting how people identify themselves… liberal or conservative … independent… how we judge one another based on these allegiances … How true do those opening lines of Dickens novel ring today – “It was the best of times it was the worst of times … the age of wisdom … the age of foolishness…” Have we not learned to sacrifice personal loves and loyalties for the betterment of a nation, for something greater than ourselves?
This is what St. Paul is up against … having founded the Christian community in Corinth on one of his first missionary journeys he now learns of division, backbiting, bickering … conflict and discord has broken out and different factions within the community are now identifying with Peter or Paul or Apollos rather than Christ. He reminds them that first and foremost, they belong to Christ and as such, ought to be single-minded in devotion and purpose.
How different is the Church today than during the time of St. Paul? No different – this is a time in the Church that is no less historic … in 2018 a Cardinal was deposed and a huge scandal resurfaced that rocked the Church to her core … we are living in an era of two popes … and in the midst of this the Church is just as divided as our country … people falling into the “liberal” or “conservative” camps … “I’m with John Paul II or Benedict or Francis” … we fail to sacrifice our personal loves and loyalties for the good of the Church, for the faith, for the good of our souls and the souls of our neighbors… for our God who IS greater than us…
It is strange how quickly we align ourselves with a person or political party … its easy, it most relates to my personal feelings, philosophy, and agenda … But that which St. Paul teaches us is that these allegiances can lead to a false understanding of ourselves, the Church and Christianity itself. Think about this… the way in which we identify ourselves has a direct influence on our thoughts, words and the choices we make … is that always in direct line with the true message and mission of Christianity? Not always. As such, the real message, the true mission of the Church then becomes obscured – even to our own eyes …
Dickens whimsical wordplay, to me, perfectly describes a unique time period – both in our nation and in our Church. It is exciting and yet dark. Personally, though, the question becomes this: whose message do we carry? With whom do I most identify? Do we first align with Francis, Benedict or John Paul … or the Democrats or Republicans? And are we able to sacrifice personal loves and loyalties so that the message of Christianity – the Cross of Jesus Christ – may not be empty of its meaning? … but rather preached, spoken, lived with authenticity, courage and faith.