A House Divided Will Fall For some years now, we have been told again and again that the US Congress has been inhibited by partisan division. Should this or that war be started, continued, or ended? Despite the repeated threats of the government closing down, or of US debts not being paid, yet we do seem to still get along. The matter of national division can be much worse than that, however. To me, civil war is probably as bad as things can get in any nation. Yet we don’t have a civil war. During a civil war, family members divide over the issue concerned, and violently so. In England, during the civil wars of the 16th and 17th Centuries, the issue was that of royal power versus democracy. In the USA, the civil war issue in the 19th Century was that of slavery. In Russia, the civil war of the early 20th Century was over the matter of vastly disproportionate wealth. There was a lot of bloodshed in each case. Selfishness and evil divide people. Seeking God’s purposes unites the whole creation. Not my will, but rather, “Thy will be done.” Figures emerged who rose to the occasion, however. In England, there was Queen Elizabeth I; or the government of William and Mary. In the USA, there was Abraham Lincoln. In Russia, there was Mikhail Gorbachev. Such historic figures were remarkable in the context of the grim circumstances of civil war. Perhaps a common theme is that they drew their grievously divided and warring nations together again towards a credible vision of a better future; and then drew their nations into a united engagement with the world at large. Division can emerge not only in a nation, but also in a community. We have seen this in the wave of issues connected with death in the presence of police, or death through police action across America — like Walter Scott and Tamir Rice; Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri; Eric Garner in Staten Island, New York; Akai Gurley in Brooklyn, New York; and John Crawford III in Dayton, Ohio. Each of those communities have to be drawn together again around a credible vision of a better future, and then, into a united engagement with the world at large.
- At the city or community level, I remember when Times Square in Manhattan went from a dangerous place to an inviting and popular place, because the city, business, and others all united around that cause — that vision of a better future.
- In team sports, irrespective of the number of stars you have, usually you cannot win if you are not united.
- At the level of the family, we can see in our first reading (Gen 3:8-15) the division that selfishness caused between Adam, Eve, and God. By contrast, just at the moment you can see the power of unity in the family of tennis star Serena Williams. That family’s unity of purpose has propelled Venus and Serena to a pinnacle of sporting achievement.
- At the level of the individual, it can be profoundly problematic to have an inner division we cannot solve. Here too, it is preferable to be making steps towards a credible vision of a better future that can unite our inner divisions of soul or mind.
So division can be so very bad. Yet, unity (after division) can be so very good. in the nation, in the community, in the family, and in the individual. Is our community, our own family, or our own heart united, or divided? If there are divisions, do they threaten to bring down our community, our family or ourselves? Last week, on Trinity Sunday, we read about the unity and harmony within the holy community of God, with the three characteristics of creator, redeemer, and sustainer. God’s call goes out to us humans to rejoin into that divine community from which we first came. Selfishness and evil divide people. Seeking God’s purposes unites the whole creation. Not my will, but rather, “Thy will be done.” This week the Gospel reading from Mark refers to the disunity that exists within the house of Satan. The house of Satan “divided against itself… will not be able to stand.” That disunity leads to the inevitable fall of that dark and evil house. There is one thing that can draw together every division, and unite people. It can be applied at every level: international, national, community, family, and individual. That unity appears in the words of Jesus in the last sentence of our Gospel reading today: “Whoever does the will of God is my mother and brother and sister” (Mk 3:35). At the end of the Gospel of Mark, we see that God’s will is to witness to Jesus’ resurrection in our own lives, whether in word or deed. At times there is disunity, whether of nation, community, family, or even, within my own heart. But let us seek to know this: Where is God leading us, or me? Where does God want us or me to be five years from now? These questions to not give ready or easy answers, I know. Yet progress can be made through the sincere and open minded question, and through the search for an answer, and through careful listening and true respect for each party in the process. “Thy will be done,” — NOT MINE. This does not mean being passive, or naive; and clearly, it doesn’t mean being selfish. Rather, it means being informed, and active, and wise, and other oriented. After we bring every effort and thought and exercise to the table, truly respecting and listening to every other party, what then is God’s will? Through that desire, that prayer, that search and struggle, that telling of the resurrection of Jesus in our own lives, we will unite (not divide), and we will eventually see God’s reign come. Selfishness and evil divide people. Seeking God’s purposes unites the whole creation. Not my will, but rather, “Thy will be done.”