Good Division

Homily for Thursday of the 29th Week

Just as there is long division and simple division, I’m thinking there is also good division and bad division.  And not the mathematical kind.  

Jesus said to his disciples, “Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.” (Lk 12:50)  When I read this gospel, I just wanted to say, “Gee thanks, Jesus. That’s just what I want. More division.”  But I don’t think he was talking about the division tying everyone into knots.  

Our world is divided in many ways. There are powerful forces that want to keep us divided. Social media and cable news come to mind. But even our politicians want to create division, despite their messages of unity.

Cable news wants more viewers, social media wants more clicks, and politicians want more votes. They’ve found that creating division is an effective way of getting what they want. A study said that social media and cable news create division by prompting three powerful emotions:

1. Self-righteousness
2. Anger
3. Fear

They know that when these three emotions are activated, we’ll keep coming back. We’ll come back to puff up our own self-righteousness, add fuel to our anger, and feed our fear.

These emotions give birth to division. And not a good division. This type of division keeps us up at night and makes us feel trapped. More importantly, keeps us from engaging others on a deeper level as we tiptoe around eggshells.  

There is a different type of division – the division that Jesus speaks. His message was divisive but his purpose was not to separate us but to bring us closer to the love of God.  This division is not fueled by these dark emotions or other vices like envy, greed, and lust. They’re fueled by the Spirit of God in us. They flow from the fullness of God within.

In Saint Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, he offers a way to handle division in the form of a blessing:
“May Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith…so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Eph 3:14-19)

In other words, when we’re filled with these dark emotions, there is one type of division. When we’re filled with the fullness of God, there is another type of division, a division that separates us from the lure and attraction of the idols in our world and thereby brings us closer to the one true God.

When you look around and see nothing but division, it might be good to also take a look into your heart. Is there anger? Pride? Selfishness? Envy? Empty yourself of these, and make room for feelings of joy, patience, gratitude, and kindness. In other words, when division arises in your life, respond from the fullness of God within, not from the fullness of your ego. Sometimes that response might be nothing more than a deep, cleansing sigh. Sometimes that might be an act of kindness or gratitude.

People will notice.  Just as people can recognize the ego at work behind the actions of another, people can also recognize the fullness of God at work behind your actions.

What are you filled with today?