All the Difference in the World

By Chris Sparks

Human pride and egoism always create divisions, build walls of indifference, hate, and violence. The Holy Spirit, on the other hand, makes hearts capable of understanding the languages of all, as he re-establishes the bridge of authentic communication between earth and Heaven.

— Pope Benedict XVI, An Invitation to Faith

We live in a bitterly divided time. Partisanship has seeped in everywhere, it seems, and that’s not a good thing, according to St. Paul, who spoke of the works of the flesh, which include “dissensions, factions, occasions of envy … and the like” (Gal 5:19-21). Jesus prayed for us all to be one, as He and the Father are one — through Divine Love, who is the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth (see Jn 17:20-23, 26; see also Jn 14:17).

And that oneness, that Catholic (and catholic) unity are only possible, only maintained, through our openness to the grace of God, our choice to persist in living life in the Spirit (see Rom 8:1-4), and our obedience to His will for us.

Now, that’s certainly not always easy. After all, Christ told us to take up our crosses and follow Him (see Mt 16:24-26). But no matter what, life involves suffering. If it’s a choice between facing that suffering with Jesus or facing that suffering without Him, I’ll pick suffering with Jesus every time (God willing!).

But how do we heal this partisanship, these dissensions and factions that we confront today in the Church and the world? Well, first and foremost, we need the power of the Holy Spirit, given through the Son from the Father, in order to live the Christian life and to love like God, to bring life and unity to the Church, and to renew the face of the earth.

The Christian life is supernatural, not natural; we can’t live according to the faith on our own strength. Even faith itself is a supernatural gift! Let’s ask the Holy Spirit to help us and the Church today, in Jesus’ name, to make a journey to the unity of the Trinity.

When we no longer expose ourselves to the fire of God, the frictions with one another become unbearable and the Church is, as Basil expressed it, torn by the shouts of factions. Only when we do not fear the tongue of fire and the storm it brings with it does the Church become the icon of the Holy Spirit. And only then does she open the world to the light of God. Church began as the disciples assembled and prayed together in the room of the Last Supper. Thus she begins again and again. In prayer to the Holy Spirit we must call for this anew each day. (Joseph Ratzinger, Images of Hope: Meditations on Major Feasts, Ignatius Press, 2006)

Next, let us remember to ask the intercession and assistance of the Spouse of the Spirit, Mary Immaculate, the Mother of the Church, the one who births Catholic unity out of the incredible diversity of humanity. As Dr. Mark Miravalle has said repeatedly over the years, in Mary, the greatest of differences is bridged, for in her womb, divinity and humanity are brought together in the Incarnation of Jesus. She can bring unity out of any diversity. Ask for her help, especially by praying the daily Rosary for peace as she requested at Fatima. Our Lady is mighty to overcome dissension, factions, and party spirit.

And then — well, healing divisions, bringing the family back together into the unity of the Trinity, the unity that Jesus prayed for, definitely depends on our own personal repentance, and on our reconciliation with God, with the Church, and with our neighbors.

That means we’ve got to forgive.

It’s not just a remedy for earthly divisions. It’s also an indispensable remedy for our separation from God. Indeed, there are a few different indications in Scripture of which particular acts or faults will be definite impediments to our salvation. One is in the Our Father:

[F]orgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors … . If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions. (Mt 6:12)

It’s a tough, tough teaching when you sit and look at it for a while.

In some mysterious fashion, forgiveness depends on forgiveness; Divine Mercy depends on mercy. We will receive from the Just Judge in the end what we dish out now to others, to those around us — unless we repent, turn again, and are saved (see Catechism, 2838-2845).

Stop judging, that you may not be judged. For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you. Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, “Let me remove that splinter from your eye,” while the wooden beam is in your eye? You hypocrite, remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye. (Mt 7:1-5)

The great Catholic author G.K. Chesterton was once asked by a newspaper to contribute his thoughts on what was wrong with the world. It is said that he returned to the newspaper a two-word answer: “I am.”

We begin to fix the Church and the world with our own repentance, by acknowledging that we have sinned, and asking God for His forgiveness through Confession, given to us by Jesus, and through works of mercy as penance and reparation for our sins. We renew the Church and the world by being transformed by the renewal of our minds (see Rom 12:2), conforming ourselves to truth by study and practicing the faith. We ask for the help of the Holy Spirit and the Spouse of the Spirit, of Divine Love and Mary Immaculate, our Advocates, our Comforters, and, strengthened by the Sacraments and by the Immaculate Conception, move then into forgiving those around us, forgiving with a power and a love that comes to us from beyond the stars. When we are living the Christian life, practicing our supernatural Catholic faith, we are living life in the Spirit, and the Trinity dwells in our hearts. Then the eternal fire of the Divine Love, whose second name is Divine Mercy, finds a home on earth. Then we kindle others with the same supernatural flame. Then we shall renew the face of the earth.

Let us pray along with St. Faustina:

O Most Holy Trinity! As many times as I breathe, as many times as my heart beats, as many times as my blood pulsates through my body, so many thousand times do I want to glorify Your mercy.

I want to be completely transformed into Your mercy and to be Your living reflection, O Lord. May the greatest of all divine attributes, that of Your unfathomable mercy, pass through my heart and soul to my neighbor.

Help me, O Lord, that my eyes may be merciful, so that I may never suspect or judge from appearances, but look for what is beautiful in my neighbors’ souls and come to their rescue.

Help me, that my ears may be merciful, so that I may give heed to my neighbors’ needs and not be indifferent to their pains and moanings.

Help me, O Lord, that my tongue may be merciful, so that I should never speak negatively of my neighbor, but have a word of comfort and forgiveness for all.

Help me, O Lord, that my hands may be merciful and filled with good deeds, so that I may do only good to my neighbors and take upon myself the more difficult and toilsome tasks.

Help me, that my feet may be merciful, so that I may hurry to assist my neighbor, overcoming my own fatigue and weariness. My true rest is in the service of my neighbor.

Help me, O Lord, that my heart may be merciful so that I myself may feel all the sufferings of my neighbor. I will refuse my heart to no one. I will be sincere even with those who, I know, will abuse my kindness. And I will lock myself up in the most merciful Heart of Jesus. I will bear my own suffering in silence. May Your mercy, O Lord, rest upon me.

You Yourself command me to exercise the three degrees of mercy. The first: the act of mercy, of whatever kind. The second: the word of mercy — if I cannot carry out a work of mercy, I will assist by my words. The third: prayer — if I cannot show mercy by deeds or words, I can always do so by prayer. My prayer reaches out even there where I cannot reach out physically.

O my Jesus, transform me into Yourself, for you can do all things. (Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, 163)

Pray for me, that I may practice what I preach. I’ll pray for you.

Chris Sparks serves as senior book editor for the Marian Fathers. He is the author of the Marian Press book How Can You Still Be Catholic? 50 Answers to a Good Question.


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