The Unity of Division

I am not a fan of division. I figure this is a good thing, since it seems to be in line with Jesus’ main teachings of peace and love. Often times unity seems to be the direction we’re are supposed to be moving towards while we live our gospel lives.

Unity is awesome. When it doesn’t exist, or when something is drastically divided, it causes me great pain. Like say, within the Catholic Church, or the greater Christian church. And then there’s the whole country, the good ol’ United States of America. How united are we, really? I don’t know, but I’ve seen a lot of passionate people scream at each other in the past few years, instead of forgetting their differences and embracing one another.

Since I like unity so much and I find division to be painful, I find it hard to make a stand sometimes. Also, it’s tough to associate with organizations that seem to perpetuate the division more than work towards unity. (Frankly, this is why I have mixed feelings about Call to Action.) I prefer to fence-sit on really controversial issues, and be present to both sides as a friend and a listener.

Earlier this summer, I was blessed to hear the prophet and Jesuit priest, John Dear, S.J. speak at a Peace Conference. I listened to him passionately and effectively rally folks around the beatitudes and how our guide is the non-violent Jesus. He told tales of how he had been arrested for being a peacemaker and making a stand, and how he’d been asked to step away from ministries and parishes because he was too controversial for taking Jesus literally.

At the end of the day, I stood up and thanked him, and agreed that peace and love are great, but what about division? Isn’t division a form of violence? How can we take a stand and not put up a wall?

His response was just as challenging as his entire message. He encouraged us to think of unity as the starting place and not the destination. The fruits of unity, he said, are peace and love and not the other way around. So, to be peacemakers and to be aware of the unity that we already live within, we must be mystics and contemplatives.

And we must sit with the great question of Jesus, “Do you think I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.” (Luke 12:51)

It’s not unity we’re going towards. It’s God. We’re already there.