WE live in a time of pain and division. Daily, in the world and in the church, hatred,anger and bitterness are growing.
II is ever harder to live at peace with each other, to be calm, to not alienate someone just by being.
There is so much wound and division around. Women's issues, poverty and social justice, abortion, sexual morality, questions of leadership and authority, issues of war and peace, and styles of living and ministry, are touching deep wounds and setting people bitterly against each other.
This is not even to mention issues such as personality conflicts, jealousy, greed and sin which habitually divide.
Our psychic temperature is on the rise and with it, as Jesus predicted, son is turning against father, daughter against mother, sister against brother. We are being divided.
It is no longer possible to escape taking a stand on these issues and, to take a stand on them is to make enemies, to have someone hate you, to be accused of being narrow and to be alienated from other sincere persons. For anyone who's sensitive, this is the deepest pain of all.
Moreover, none of us ever approach these issues in complete fairness and objectivity. We are wounded, whether we admit it or not. Knowingly and unknowingly, in all these issues we have been either oppressor or oppressed and consequently we approach them either too full of wound or too defensive to see straight.
In either case, the temptation is to become bitter and to give in to the propensity to feel that we have the right to be angry, to hate certain people, to be selfrighteous, and to dissociate entirely sympathy and understanding from certain others.
That is a tragic mistake. As valid, painful and imperative as these issues may be, reason, love, understanding and longsuffering, may never give way to a progressive and militant bitterness which can irrevocably alienate. That is the road to hell because bitterness is hell.
Yel, that Is what is happening (codas. We are too easily giving in to the temptation to think that because we have been wounded, or because others are wounded, we have the right to hate, to withdraw our empathy, to think in terms of black and white, and to be bitter.
II is getting worse. Bitterness like cancer is slowly infecting more and more of Christ's body. We need to read this, the sign of the times, and respond to it out of the Gospel. It is my submission that, given this bitterness, the Christian vocation today, for a time, will be that of letting tension, to wash out these wounds.
Let me illustrate what this means by way of an example.
Just to he alive in the Church
today is to be caught in a painful tension. For example, the issues
of women's rights and social justice are, without doubt, two of the primary challenges that the Holy Spirit is giving our age.
Yet Rome refuses to raise seriously the question of the ordination of women and it silences Leonardo Buff, a voice for the pour. With that comes a wave of resentment, bitterness and hatred.
Daily I move In circles where people are bitter about these issues and I find myself
'increasingly reluctant to defend Rome's stance on them. On these two issues we are sitting on a powder keg and a deadly bitterness is flowing from them.
Yet, no serious Catholic can he cavalier about the Church as an
institution, as universal. Some 800 million Catholics cannot travel together without compromise, frustration, impatience, tears, rules and traditions which at times might seemingly strangle some of the life that the Holy Spirit Is spawning.
When a universal Church moves forward, it can only he in baby steps. So what does the Christian who wants to be faithful today do? Ignore Rome?
Consider the women's movement and social justice as fads? Grow cynical?
Since nothing else is possible, for now, save for bitterness which must be rejected, the
answer lies in a fidelity which accepts suffering. To be faithful today means to live in pain, in tension, in frustration, in seeming compromise, often hated by both sides.
Our call today is to reconcile by feeling the pain of all sides and by
letting our pain and helplessness be a buffer that heals, the blood that helps wash the wound. As a
simple start, we can lest how open-minded we are on all of these issues by seeing how much pain we are in. Not to be in pain is not to he open-minded.