The Responsorial (Psalm 124) calls us to believe, in spite of all appearances: “Our help is in the name of the
In Exodus 1: 8-22 the descendants of Israel (Jacob) are given reason to doubt God’s care for them. “Joseph died, and all his brothers, and that whole generation…. Now a new king, who knew nothing of Joseph, came to power in Egypt.” And this king, noticing “how numerous and powerful the Israelite people are growing,” adopted a policy of semi-genocide, killing all male babies and reducing the living “to cruel slavery.” How much faith did it take for the Israelites to proclaim then, “Our help is in the name of the Lord”?
With hindsight, the rest of the Psalm justifies this conclusion: “If it had not been the LORD who was on our side… when our enemies attacked us, then they would have swallowed us up alive.” God doesn’t prevent sins that cause us suffering; but he guarantees a happy outcome. He overcomes both sin and sin’s consequences, even death. Although we may not see it, or recognize it when it is happening, the truth is, “Our help is in the name of the Lord.”
In Matthew 10:34 to 11:1 Jesus tells those who minister in his name to expect persecution. We know that God’s “plan for the fullness of time” is to unify the human race in Christ: to “gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” God has “put all things under Christ’s feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all” (Ephesians 1: 9-23). Jesus said, “I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (John 12:32). The work of Christian ministry is unity and peace “in Christ.”
But Jesus tells his disciples, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth…. I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother… and one's foes will be members of one's own household.” Jesus doesn’t really divide people, but people divide themselves in response to him, because the true message of Jesus is not acceptable to all. So sometimes division is the sign that Jesus is truly acting in and through his minister.
Our focus, however, must always be unity. Sometimes this is precisely what causes division. If we minister equally to those who stand on their goodness and those who are not in good standing, to those of every race, social class, sexual orientation and denominational affiliation, we may find there is nothing more divisive than all-embracing love. But our trust is “ in the name of the Lord.”
In the second Eucharistic Prayer, after the first Epiclesis that “calls down” the Holy Spirit to change the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ, there is a second Epiclesis asking that the Church might be “brought together in unity by the Holy Spirit.” From then on, the Eucharistic Prayer focuses on unity until it ends, proclaiming “honor and glory” to the Father “in the unity of the Holy Spirit.”
Initiative: Be a priest. Unify through love, even when it arouses division.