Unity in a Time of Strife
This year of pandemic and polarization has strained our nation and our Church. When I made the difficult choice to temporarily suspend the public celebration of Mass in March, and even when we reopened with restrictions at the end of May, there were, understandably, a number of complaints. Most expressed a sadness that reflected the deep need and appreciation for the Eucharist among the faithful. But there were other responses that resembled political rants, rather than a heartfelt longing to share in the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ with one’s parish community. The traditional prayers associated with the month of November may offer the antidote to this vitriol.
Each November, we are called to pray for the faithful departed. Recognizing that both the living and the dead are one body in Christ, we offer prayers for our brothers and sisters enduring purgatory as they are made ready, through God’s grace, to be one with Him for all eternity. Our prayers and sacrifices here on Earth can help our departed brothers and sisters because we are one body. This is true of all of us here, walking our path of faith on earth. As I wrote in my recent pastoral letter on the Most Holy Eucharist,
“Brothers and sisters, there is no room for division among us; it is our prayer, it is God’s will that we be ‘one body, one spirit in Christ.’ I often reflect upon this oneness – which anticipates our unity in heaven – when I pray at the altar: ‘Lord renew your church which is in eastern Washington by the light of the Gospel. Strengthen the bond of unity between the faithful and pastors of your people … that in a world torn by strife your people may shine forth as a prophetic sign of unity and concord.’
A world torn by strife is not foreign to Church history; and it is part of our experience of the Church here in eastern Washington. Our unity, while strained by politics, mistrust, and disagreements over how to respond to COVID-19, remains a reality; by our baptism we are incorporated into the Body of Christ. When we slander our fellow believer or speak harshly of one another, we serve to wound the Church. But just as our prayers and sacrifices can benefit our brothers and sisters in purgatory, our prayer and sacrifices can build each other up here on earth.
I want to offer some concrete suggestions of how to grow in prayer and unity.
If you are upset that you have to wear a mask while at Mass, if it irritates you, offer up the difficulty you experience and ask God to comfort someone who is anxious to return to Mass. If your neighbor has a political sign placed in their yard that angers you, say a prayer for peace in their heart and yours whenever you see the sign. If a fellow parishioner seems to disregard what you feel are important safety precautions during the pandemic, rather than harboring resentment, offer prayers for their safety. We all miss the regular social life we had before the pandemic. In our distance, we can offer our sacrifices for one another to bring about healing and renewed faith and hope as a Church and nation.
Every hardship and every frustration can become for us an opportunity to build up the body of Christ in unity, to strengthen one another at a distance. As the Catholic Church in eastern Washington in this difficult and tumultuous time, let us become a church that prays and sacrifices for each other, and strives always to follow Jesus Christ, who is the way, the truth, and the life.
Let us pray to our Lord, “in a world torn by strife” that we “may shine forth as a prophetic sign of unity and concord.”
Our Lady, Queen of Peace, pray for us.