Hear, LORD, my plea for justice;
pay heed to my cry;
Listen to my prayer
from lips without guile.
From you let my vindication come;
your eyes see what is right.
The Book of Job and today's selection from the Gospel of Saint Luke concern disputes that arise among people and with their God. The litigant Job will appeal to a court of law against his adversary, knowing full well that his adversary and the judge are the Same God. Jesus overhears a dispute among this disciples about "which of them was the greatest," and he settles the argument with an unforgettable show and tell, "he took a child and placed it by his side and said to them...."
... I hear that when you meet as a church there are divisions among you, and to a degree I believe it; there have to be factions among you in order that (also) those who are approved among you may become known.We would hardly be human if we didn't have our differences. Two eye-witnesses looking at the same thing see different things and tell different stories. One of the strongest arguments for the authenticity of the four gospels is their amazing -- almost unearthly -- agreement! Although each author has his own distinctive style and emphasis, they agree enthusiastically on the person and mission of Jesus. He is the Son of God; as Messiah, he suffered and died and was raised up for our salvation.
If we realize that we must and do have our differences we are left with the invitation to discover, explore and work out our differences; and to seek resolution. To say they are irresolvable is to shortchange the power and wisdom of God. If we cannot see a resolution today that doesn't mean it will not appear tomorrow, or next year, or someday.
Differences should never be an excuse for schism. After centuries of misunderstanding, suspicion and feuding the one church, in 1054, split into eastern and western factions. Nothing good came of it. In Rome and its dioceses the Mass became the priest's muttered recitation of the Eucharistic Prayer while the congregation found something else to do. In the east, the priests retreated behind an iconostasis to reappear when they had prepared the meal for the faithful. In both east and west the one prayer of the church was celebrated in a language few understood. Out of that muddle the Protestant Reformation, attempting to re-engage the faithful, split again and went further off course.
Pope John XXIII astonished the world when he invited East and West and Protestants to return to the table and discuss our differences. Inevitably, many refused the invitation and, since the Second Vatican Council, some Catholics have walked away from Communion. Bishops and priests "take their balls and go home!" taking masses of the laity with them into ever-increasing distance from the one Body of the Lord.
In today's selection from the Gospel according to Saint Luke, Jesus urges his quarrelsome disciples, “Do not prevent [a stranger from casting out demons in my name], for whoever is not against you is for you.”
Find agreement, find mutual respect and reverence, recognize sincerity and authentic experience, discover the limits of your own knowledge and wisdom, admit you do not know and can hardly imagine how God might resolve these disputes; then stand back and watch the Reconciling Mercy of God in action.