We like to see movies and television shows with war and division, but this isn’t really how we want to live is it? If we are going to actually experience the effects, we’d rather live in peace and unity. On movies we find it exciting to see whole nations lined up with weaponry crashing into one another, or in soap opera type television shows, the betrayal and infighting between friends and family, but in reality, we don’t want war and division; it might bring excitement for a moment, but that moment is passing and we are left battered and sick. Instead we want a life of peace and unity amongst all people. When there is peace and unity, our culture, our humanity can flourish; the arts, education, and religion can be practiced more in times of peace. Instead of spending our energies on destruction and death, we can spend our energies on growth and life. But what brings unity and peace? In today’s second reading we are told, only Christ can bring peace to us. Only the Holy Spirit can bring true unity. Only God can stop the war and division between people and within each person.
Ever since the fall of our first parents, Adam and Eve, there has been war and division, or as St. Paul says, “a dividing wall of enmity.” Remember how God drove Adam and Eve away from the Tree of Life and placed an angel to guard it. Ever since the fall there has been three types of war or division: between God and man, between man and man, and within each man, between his spirit and his flesh. Once sin infected the human heart and mind, nothing of earth was strong enough to reconcile these things, nothing strong enough to bring peace and unity between us and God, between all people, and between each person’s soul and body. There has been depression, addiction, hatred, and murder ever since… a dividing wall between us and the life that God originally intended for us.
This is why the Father sent his Son. We hear in the first reading, “I will raise up a righteous shoot to David, as king he shall reign and govern wisely, he shall do what is just and right in the land.” And in the Gospel we hear how Jesus is the shepherd from God, whose heart is moved with pity for us who are like sheep without a shepherd… A flock without a shepherd is one which wolves can make war on. A flock without a shepherd is one which is divided; with no shepherd to follow, they wander away from each other. Christ is the only shepherd that can bring unity to all us sheep throughout the world, he is the only one that can bring peace. Again we hear from the 2nd reading, “He came and preached peace … for through him we have access in one Spirit to the Father.” Through Christ and the Holy Spirit, the access to the Tree of Life which was lost is returned to us. God the Father is the Tree of Life, he is the source of all being, of all peace, of all unity, and of all life. When we gather around this tree and eat of its fruit, we become forgiven, healed, and we become one. When we as sheep draw close to the shepherd, he leads us to this tree, and being close to him, we are united and at peace with one another.
The first steps the shepherd leads us on are always steps of forgiveness. We must firstly seek the forgiveness of God; we cannot draw close to him unless we humbly accept and confess our sins. We do this through never quibbling with the Church when she teaches us what is right and what is wrong. Christ gave the Holy Spirit to abide within her and told her to go forth and teach all that he has commanded. Thus when we obey Christ’s bride, we obey Christ himself. We must never “war” with the Church so we are led back to the Tree of Life, to peace, and to unity. We are Christ’s flock, and his Bride leads us where he wants us to go.
When we confess our faults and receive forgiveness for them; we learn to forgive others and not only ourselves. Many of us, when we were young, caused serious pain and anguish to our parents or to classmates at school. We may have bullied, mocked, or tempted others with our bodies. We need to seek out God’s forgiveness, and then accept his forgiveness for ourselves. Parents who struggled in the rearing of their children, who might not have always provided the best example, whose children may have fallen away from the faith, also need to accept God’s forgiveness for themselves. There are so many mistakes that we’ve all made; we need to stop “warring” and being divided within ourselves. Priests too, let their flocks down and mislead them; God’s forgiveness is available to them as well.
We accept and confess that we were wrong about a lot of things, that we could have done many things better, and that the proper way to “process” our guilt, is not by ignoring it, but by seeking out reconciliation with God, and then accepting that reconciliation within ourselves. Forgiveness is the first step toward peace and unity. As the commandments of Jesus state, “Love God above all things, and then your neighbor as yourselves,” we firstly seek out God’s forgiveness, secondly we forgive ourselves, and thirdly we must not forget to always forgive others. If we refuse reconciliation with God, or self, or others, then the peace and unity available to us is damaged. All of these are connected. Thus, we must also let go of our hatred, even to those who have harmed us. If someone hurts us, it’s okay to protect ourselves a bit, but we must forgive and continue to love that person. This is what Christ does for us, it was our sins which nailed him on the cross, yet he forgives us and continues to show his love. We are his flock, thus we must also do the same.
Let us always desire this peace and unity which Christ offers us. The only way to bring about peace and unity in the world is to firstly receive them from our God, to let his grace heal the discord between our spirit and flesh, and then to let this peace and unity propagate outward and irrigate the whole world with the grace we’ve received.