A Church of conflict and beauty
It is a paradox. Thanksgiving and Christmas can be times of conflict – times when we want our family to conform to our dreams. Then, during the holidays, we are confronted with how our dearest loved ones are living their lives … and we get into conflict.
Conflict, it seems, is the breeding ground for things that turn out to be gloriously beautiful. Think of the great works of music, art, sculpture and poetry that have been conceived in the souls of those who were in terrible conflict.
Our Church was paradoxically born in conflict. As soon as Jesus was brought forth by Mary, she and Joseph had to flee to Egypt with Him. When Jesus later began His public ministry, His own hometown folks in Nazareth would not accept Him. And, of course, He died in the midst of the cosmic conflict between Good and Evil.
The history of our Church is a history of many, many conflicts. If you go to the Book of Acts (chapter 15), or to Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians (2:11-14), you will find the Church taking shape in conflict. And then, of course, we have had 20 Ecumenical Councils in order to resolve conflicting matters both internal and external to our Church.
How do we resolve conflict? That, of course, is one of the principal efforts of Jesus. Over and over again He teaches us, and then shows us, how we should go about resolving our conflicts. The big problem, of course, is how we interpret His teachings. That is why we have a teaching ministry in our Church, something we call the Magisterium. Magister, in Latin, means “teacher.” (In fact, it’s where master’s degree is derived).
When we don’t know how to resolve conflicts we bash each other – we beat others into submission. We do that either physically or psychologically. If we can’t do that, then we throw them out – out of our families and even out of our Church. Throwing someone outside of our community is called excommunication. And when we do so, it’s not a sign of success – it’s a sign of failure.
Finally, there’s the war going on inside of each one of us between the conflicted and convoluted picture we have of ourselves. Am I attractive? Do people like me? Am I admired? Of course there is never a satisfactory answer to those questions because we’re always wallowing in our own bad news about ourselves. This becomes the source of how we treat others. We bash others because we bash ourselves.
Did Jesus ever tell us to love our neighbors? No, He did not! He told us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves, knowing full well that we’ll treat others the way we treat ourselves.
Which is why Jesus came to give us Good News about who we are. YOU are precious, lovable and beautiful in His eyes … so much so that He thought you were worth dying for! And if you really accept that, then you will have found the way to resolve conflicts within your life.