Fast forward to the time of Jesus. After driving out demons from a sick man who was demonic, Jesus told the Pharisees, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be laid to waste, and every city and house divided against itself shall not stand.” Shortly thereafter", St. Paul appealed to the young church in Corinth to avoid divisions among them and to be completely united with one purpose.
And more recently, when our nation was on the brink of civil war, a young politician from Illinois by the name of Abraham Lincoln was chosen to be the candidate for U.S. Senate. In his acceptance speech at the state convention, Lincoln echoed the words of Jesus when he warned the assembly that the issue over slavery was threatening to tear the country apart. “A house divided against itself cannot stand".
True enough, E pluribus unum. “Out of many, we are one”. This phrase of unity became part of the Great Seal of the United States. Out of many colonies emerged a single nation. Out of many peoples, races, religions, languages and cultures, emerged a diverse but united people sharing common values and a common purpose.
Unfortunately, the unity that made us a great nation has all but disappeared. Our graduates will inherit a country that is more polarized than at any time since the end of the Civil War. And around the world, the divide seems even greater. Extremists are pitting the great religions and cultures of the world against each other.
Whether we realize it or not, whether we want to acknowledge it or not, there is an ongoing spiritual battle between good and evil. Ever since The Fall of our first parents, Satan continues to plant seeds of dissension, seeking to destroy relationships, separate families, and divide the Church.
All too often, we are accomplices. When we have an unforgiving heart, or carry resentment towards others, or show a callous indifference to the needs of others, we are on the wrong side of the spiritual battle. When we perpetuate rumors through gossip, when we fan the flames of dissension and discord within our families, when we fail to show respect for others, we are offering aid and comfort to the enemy.
Pope Francis has said that “Our culture has lost its sense of God’s tangible presence.” Many people have stopped thinking about God. Others, if they think about Him at all, think God is just “out there” — beyond us, up in the clouds, not concerned about our lives or our world. If He did care, they reason, there would not be so much suffering in the world. If we think about God that way — as remote, removed, uncaring — then it really doesn’t make any difference whether we believe in Him or not.
Until very recently, the world knew God. For twenty centuries, an abiding faith in the God of Abraham was the foundation of our civilization. God was real for people and alive in their hearts! Faith in God stirred their imaginations and their art. Trust in the order of His creation guided their math and science. God’s teachings – especially the teachings of Jesus – shaped the laws of nations, as well as people’s expectations for how they should treat one another.
We can run away from God, try to forget him. But we can’t change the reality that we are created by God, for God. As humans, the need to believe is written in our hearts. When we stop believing in God, we don’t stop believing. We just start believing in other things. We start believing in ourselves — in our own powers, in our possessions, in the things we can create and control. We start to worship the work of our own hands.
When people don’t have faith in God, they chase their own desires, define their own happiness, follow paths of their own making…to destinations of their own choosing. But they will never be able to quench their thirst, never satisfy their needs, because they are chasing an illusion. Eventually, these people lose their way and fall into despair. Wallowing in self-pity in total darkness with no peace and no hope. What a sad place to be.
We know there is better. In these graduates, there is hope. Their urgent mission and ours is to turn ourselves and others from the darkness to the light of Christ, the one who came to reveal to us the true identity of God as a Holy Trinity, as a perfectly united Holy Family. Made in His image and likeness, we are pre-wired to live in relationships, in communion with our Creator and His creation. We are born with the need and the desire to love and be loved.
From the moment the Holy Spirit descended on the disciples at Pentecost, the power of God’s Spirit to unite all peoples was manifest. Imagine, thousands of people gathered to celebrate, from all the different nations, each group speaking the language of the region from where they were from. Yet, the power of the Holy Spirit enabled the disciples to preach the Gospel of God's Love in every language for all to understand.
We cannot over-emphasize the significance of this event in salvation history. A world divided discovered once and for all how it is possible to unite. We may have different skin color and live in different places. We may have different traditions and different opinions. But being different does not have to mean we have to be divided. At Pentecost we learned there is one language that transcends all races and colors, all nations and boundaries, all cultures and traditions. Love is the universal language that has the power to overcome every barrier and obliterate every division. By sharing God’s love and mercy, each one of us can be a bridge that unites broken families and divided peoples, doing our part to help the world rediscover our common humanity and our common purpose – and that is to love and care for each other, as we journey towards our final destination, eternal unity with the Holy Trinity.