Jn 13:31-33a, 34-35
Paul and Barnabas were busily engaged in something that I doubt either of them ever thought they would be doing. Not just preaching the Gospel, as different as that must have been, but preaching to Gentiles. I doubt either of them ever expected to spend much time around Gentiles at all, much less spend time explaining the advent of the Messiah. There was not much love lost in the relationship of Gentile and Jew. To Jews, Gentiles were the other, to Gentiles, Jews were the other. Each saw the other as different. There just did not seem to be a great deal of common ground between them. Yet if the words of Jesus were to mean anything, Paul and Barnabas had to take those words, take the Word, to the Gentiles. In the Gospel reading today Jesus gives us the heart of his preaching, the essence of what being his follower means, love one another. If we refuse to love, how can we follow Jesus? Paul and Barnabas had no choice really, they had to carry the Word of God to all people, especially people who did not necessarily love them, people they did not necessarily love either.
We are called to love one another, yet look at us now. We all call ourselves Christians, but could we be any more divided than we are? We argue over the proper way to worship, the proper language to use, the proper way to address God, and that’s just we Catholics among ourselves! Among all Christian groups ecumenism may seem to be alive and well, but we still can’t agree, too often we can’t even agree to disagree. There is a panel show on a local television station called “The Moral Side of the News.” Ministers of various faiths discuss happenings in the news, and the discussions are always civil, even pleasant. They disagree, but always defer to the other persons right to disagree. This morning, however, a question came up about using feminine language in reference to God. This was prompted by a story out of Arizona about some churches now refusing to use the word Lord, considering it a masculine term. The battle lines were drawn, and for the first time I saw the discussion on this show become heated, nearly an argument, close to being uncivil. Neither side seemed ready to even consider that any idea but their own has any merit. The only thing that came to my mind is, what are we doing? Why do we argue over things that, at the end of the day, will not determine our salvation?
I can call God Mother, you can call God Father. I can say the only proper language for worship is Latin, and you can say all worship should be in one’s native language. We can disagree about a thousand things, but we must agree on one. If we are to call ourselves followers Of Jesus the Christ we must do one thing, obey one commandment:
“I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
5th Sunday of Easter
May 6, 2007
In an argument over how to properly refer to God one man said in exasperation to the group he was in dispute with, “Probably you could be foolish enough to suppose our God male…because the word is?” (Gregory of Nazianzus c. 330-389 C.E.)