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Divided Hearts, Divided Church

“I belong to Apollos!”

By Isaiah’s account, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone. You have brought them abundant joy and great rejoicing.” We Christians take that as a prophecy not only about Christ’s coming, but also about his people.

And yet so often in the life of the church, Christ is divided into pieces, and the song of his people is cacophony. Divisions afflict the various Christian tribes. The rod of the taskmaster, which Jesus was foretold to smash, is wielded by factions who think they have cornered Christ.

In the Catholic church, it often goes like this: I am for Ratzinger. I am for Rahner. I am the Pope’s. I am for protest, I’m for restoration. I’m for reform. I’m for women. I’m for tradition.

We’re forgetting something: Has Ratzinger or Rahner saved us? Is it the Pope who has been crucified for us? Have we been baptized in the name of tradition or of change?

Every one of us, from pope to pauper, stands humbly before God Paul begs the Corinthians, in the name of Jesus, that there be no factions among them: “Rather be united in mind and judgment.” But what unites them if they share no common ground? What unifies the formation of their judgment? It is evident that the reported “quarreling” in the church at Corinth was based upon divergent commitments to someone or something other than Jesus. That’s what was splitting them apart.

The factionalist, whether of Paul’s time or our own, “belongs” to someone other than Jesus. Some think that Paul has the truth. Others cling to Apollos. Others pledge their allegiance to Peter. Yet Paul will have no truck with this line of thought.

“Has Christ, then, been divided into parts? Was it Paul who was crucified for you?” Our baptism, through the gifts of tradition and law, ritual and order, is the sign of our salvation; but the salvation is found in Christ, no one, no thing else. Other voices that offer us another savior speak the worldly language of power and privilege, not the way of the cross, which to them seems inadequate and foolish.

In Matthew’s Gospel Jesus leaves Nazareth for Capernaum to fulfill the promise of bringing light to the Jordan. He preached that the Kingdom of God requires reform. Indeed it does. So it was for the church of Peter and Paul.  So it is for us today. …

John Kavanaugh, SJ


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