You have heard that it was said,
You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.
But I say to you, love your enemies
and pray for those who persecute you,
that you may be children of your heavenly Father,
for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good,
and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.
For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have?
In 1861, when the United States split into warring factions Catholic bishops also split into quarreling camps. They were held together by allegiance to Rome and their ancient faith but each prelate supported the soldiers and sailors culled from their churches, and the causes for which they fought, killed and died.
When Europe erupted in World War I, Christians of every nation fought savagely against their fellow Christians. By 1939, when war again erupted a newer generation had stop pretending to believe in Christ or any of his churches.
In 2018, when the United States is again divided into quarreling factions, each calling the other unpatriotic, the Catholic Church is again split into mutually suspicious camps.
Is anyone actually surprised by that? We might shake our heads in wonder at the earlier incidents. Why couldn't the bishops make a definitive statement on slavery in 1861, a statement that every self-avowed Catholic would accept? Why couldn't Pope Benedict XV, in union with Protestant ministers and Eastern Orthodox patriarchs, demand that every Christian lay down his arms? Wasn't it obvious that this war was unnecessary?
But we're not surprised when today's Christians feud with each other. Every thinking person is convinced of his own upbringing, inspiration and opinions. The marvelous Internet provides a resounding echo chamber to assure him of his righteousness, and the wicked, irresponsible, insane foolishness of his opponents. "How can those people," he wonders, "so lack ordinary compassion?"
I hear a note of irony, if not humor, in Jesus' remarks about the sun which shines on the bad and the good, and the rain which falls on the just and the unjust. There may be a hidden meaning under his words; a silent question, "Are you sure of which camp you're in?"
The Greeks used the word hubris when they described the fall of the great and powerful. Hubris is a pride that goes before the fall. But hubris belongs not only to the powerful; it hides among those who appoint and anoint the powerful, those who think they have appointed a superior worthy of their trust although he represents nothing but their own self-interest.
Hubris is the arrogance that cannot see its own blindness, that supposes it knows everything that needs to be known and can judge others with both conviction and Truth.
Jesus doesn't so much show us the truth as lead us to himself, the Truth incarnate. He is possessed by no one; no one can lay a hand on him until he surrenders; no one can kill him before he lays down his life.
Our only hope of knowing the truth about any controversial matter is in our knowing the One whose sun shines on every camp, whose rain falls on every head. Apart from each other we cannot know the Truth, feuding with one another we only retreat further from the Truth.
We will, however, agree on that Great Day when we are stunned into terrified silence by the Battle Cry of Psalm 46:10,
Who stops wars to the ends of the earth,
breaks the bow, splinters the spear,
and burns the shields with fire
“Be still and know that I am God!
I am exalted among the nations,
exalted on the earth.”