Originally published at Homiletic & Pastoral Review
“By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). Christ thus established love as the essential identifying mark of those who belong to Him. Love reveals the Christian; conversely, if we don’t love one another, we will not be recognized as His disciples.
It is on this point, then, that we must especially examine our consciences. Do we love one another? How would we know?
Our fallen nature and the world around us have never made love easy, but perhaps, trite as it may sound, the difficulties are especially great in our own time. It’s often observed that we live in an age marked by division, bitterness, and anger. As the children of the Church live in the world, exposed to all its foibles, we find division, bitterness, and anger among Catholics as well — e.g. between those who incline politically to the “right” or to the “left,” or those with contrasting positions on the Second Vatican Council or the Latin Mass. When they grow strong enough, such conflicts can tear apart families, parishes, and others of our communities. That scenario is not, alas, a mere hypothesis on my part.
Obviously this disunity among Catholics is a grave evil; but how to respond to it calls for more consideration. It has been pointed out, wisely, that as children of the same Mother Church, members of one Mystical Body, we share a common Faith, which provides us with a comprehensive, unifying worldview that, in one way or another, encompasses all good causes; this Faith ought to be more central, more fundamental, to us than any of the issues that divide us. This theme deserves extensive reflection, but my focus here is along different lines. Here I aim to explore how we, as mature Catholics, ought to respond when we find ourselves differing about issues that matter to us (and about which, presumably, the Church allows her children to form their own opinions).