Sunday Scripture reading, Sept. 27, 2020: Less spleen, please
Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
1) Ez 18:25-28
Psalm 25:4-5, 8-9, 10, 14
2) Phil 2:1-11 or 2:1-5
Gospel: Mt 21:28-32
In a campaign season when political animosities are inflaming divisions within the church, St. Paul's words in today's second reading sound quaint.
"If there is any encouragement in Christ, any solace in love, any participation in the Spirit, any compassion and mercy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, with the same love, united in heart, thinking one thing" (Phil 2:1-2).
The idea that Christians could be of the same mind, have the same outlook and be united in pursuing a common mission in society seems so foreign it would make you laugh if it didn't make you cry.
Look at how we treat each other on social media. Father Joe, the pastor of a parish up the road from where I live, is a genial man who makes Jesus-centered and entertaining posts on social media. (He worked as a comedy writer before becoming a priest.)
But he said recently that his posts draw so many vitriolic responses that he's had to block people -- 500 on Twitter alone! He listed "people who are cruel, people who are more faithful to their political party of choice than Jesus, the constant complainers, the perpetually indignant."
Not much solace there, or joy in having "the same love." And shall we think that none of the blocked belong to Father Joe's parish?
So what do we do with Paul's appeal for unity? File it away in some archive of outdated religious sentiments? Do we accept that in the 2020s we're just not going to experience being of the same mind and heart, sharing the same love, thinking the "one thing" of Christ and his mission in the world?
The conflicts in society and the church can't be easily resolved. But there is no reason for hopelessness about our ability to move toward unity of outlook and purpose in the church. Paul says, "Have in you the same attitude that is also in Christ." God will place it in us.
We have a real "participation in the Spirit." The path to unity, which is the path of humility, on which we treat each other as "more important" than ourselves, has been opened to us by Jesus. So let us walk on it.
How might Paul's words (Phil 2:1-5) guide me in dealing with disagreements online and face to face?
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Perrotta is the editor and an author of the "Six Weeks With the Bible" series, teaches part time at Siena Heights University and leads Holy Land pilgrimages. He lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.