Friday, July 31, 2009

Striving for Understanding

My husband celebrated his 50th high school graduation anniversary with a reunion this past weekend. On Saturday evening, the class enjoyed dining and dancing and more importantly, reminiscing. (My 40th, BTW, is next year).

Sunday morning we gathered for a mass given by one of the class members who became a priest, Fr. Mike. We do not belong to his Church, but it is near our home and we attended with many of the other class members. I thought the homily was particularly good, and so I'll repeat the gist of it here.

Fr. Mike taught from one of Sunday's readings. (There are daily Bible readings at the USCCB [US Catholic Conference of Bishops] website here, which allows us to follow the Church's setup for readings online throughout the year.) The one which Fr. Mike taught from on July 26 is:
Brothers and sisters: I, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace: one body and one Spirit, as you were also called to the one hope of your call; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
This is from the Letter of Paul to the Ephesians, 4:1-6, from the New American Bible.

Paul's requests seem simple enough. There is not a lot to interpret to wiggle one's way out of the message. Yet how hard to do!

The priest's point was a little different from the letter: that we have expectations of perfection for others (parents for children, children for parents, priests for parishioners and vice versa, etc.), but of course are not perfect ourselves. However, this does not diminish the need to strive for perfection for ourselves and desire it for others. If we don't try for the mountaintop, we'll never get out of the valleys.

This is quite a balancing act. Others do things which are hurtful. Even more complicated is the situation where each of us think we are doing right, yet disagree on how to do it. Our world is full of these situations, including politics and religion. Taking aside the personal gain which politicians may seek, I think they honestly believe their own party's economic policies, for example, are better for the whole country in the long run than that of the other party.

In the past when I disagreed with what someone else was saying, I often said to myself, "It's a matter of common sense." But the more I thought about it, I realized what we all need is God's wisdom. Only He knows the best way. Often opposing sides both have some things right and some wrong.

When I face someone with whom I disagree, I have found that the best I can do is explain my side and then pray for understanding for both of us. Sometimes one can't help carrying anger over divisions, but this goes a long way in correcting that. I have to be willing to learn as much as I want the other person to learn. I believe God is the true teacher. And I have experienced some true breakthroughs on both on my side and theirs which I believe have been divinely guided.
What Paul in Ephesians was saying is that we are to bear with one another, which calls for patience and long-suffering. What our priest added was that we can do so and still seek perfection. We need wisdom to see our flaws and patience and strength to make our world better through love, all of which is only possible by God's grace.


1 comment:

RAnn said...

It is so easy to assume that if you disagree with me, it is you that must be wrong!