Wis 1:1-7; Ps 139:1-10; Lk 17:1-6
No one gives much attention to the lowly and the poor. Indeed, that is the definition of what it means to be lowly and poor, you are invisible, unnoticed, hidden. It is only the LORD who can be trusted to rescue the lowly and the poor. The LORD sees, notices, and finds those whom most of us can’t be bothered with. The only time we take the time to notice the ones everyone forgets is when they bother us, annoy us, or violate boundaries. If someone crosses over into our comfort zone we notice and we are uncomfortable. One beggar at the city gate pleaded with Martin of Tours, a soldier with only his weapons and his clothing. In the cold night he pulled out his sword and cut his military robe in two and wrapped the beggar with half and himself with the other half. Saint Martin became a monk, bishop and most beloved saint, one of the first saints not to be called to martyrdom. Still we plead with the psalm that the LORD defends the defenseless and renders true justice for the afflicted and destitute. We beg the LORD to rescue the lowly and the poor from the hands of the wicked, “rise up, O God, bring judgment to the earth.” Anyone who is powerful on the earth is reminded of the inevitability of death. Indeed, all-important and self-important upon the earth will die and fall like any prince. The book of Wisdom praises those like Saint Martin who love justice, and seek the Lord with integrity of heart. The Lord Jesus desires the unity of his church, and though mountains of prejudice still separate us, we who have a mustard seed of faith live in expectation for the great day of our reunion.
Why is church unity even an issue? Why not live and let live? Perhaps, disunity is a scandal that keeps many away from our fellowship. How can we be a home in which all people who seek truth and love are welcome if we cannot live together in peace among ourselves? Where is the wisdom of God? Any perverse counsel that separates brothers and sisters in Christ, the Lord rebukes as foolhardy. Those who plot evil, wisdom enters not, nor does she dwell in those under the debt of sin. Can wisdom enter into hearts too full of themselves to be humble and obedient? Does the sin of pride not keep us separated, and in mutual condemnation? Wisdom is kindly and it fills the world. The Spirit is all embracing and knows what man says. It is the wisdom and witness of all the Saints, especially Blessed Pope John Paul II when he proclaimed that the Greek version of the Nicene Creed is the official statement of faith for the universal church. Likewise, it was his wise leadership that summoned all the church to breath with both lungs. The East needs the West and the West needs the East so that the Holy Spirit might embolden our witness to the Gospel and enable our praise of the Living God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Without getting into all the history behind the many schisms in the Body of Christ, today’s gospel has great wisdom to offer those who still have faith in the Lord and his Church. We who sin, sometimes without full awareness of the effect of our offences upon the whole Body of Christ; we are responsible for the shattered division of the Body. What keeps us far from one another? What keeps us from even considering that unity is worth working for and even worth dying for? We dare not forgive; nor do we dare ask for the forgiveness we need for offenses intended or unintended. Saint Luke makes the teaching of Christ crystal clear, “If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he wrongs you seven times in one day and returns to you seven times saying, ‘I am sorry,’ you should forgive him.” If we are faithful to this teaching at every level of Church membership schism and heresy could not long exist, at least not for centuries. This is the promise and power of the Eucharist we now share. Even as we rejoice in our unity as the Body of Christ, we long for the healing only the Lord Jesus can give.