Division is rampant in today’s world, whether it’s in our own families, between political parties, or even among generations. Over and over I hear people blaming others for the issues in the world. Those millennials don’t work hard enough, that politician is ignorant, my mom doesn’t understand me, my boss won’t listen to my concerns, and on and on. Jesus’ words in the Gospel yesterday probably surprised his disciples; they thought Jesus was about healing and forgiveness, not division. But the division Jesus saw coming was rooted in the fact that others would not accept those who fully lived out Jesus’ mission of building the Kingdom on earth. Jesus knew his message would challenge the status quo, and it still does today. Many of our religious and political leaders have diminished Jesus’ radical hospitality and the explicit instructions of Catholic Social Teaching.
Fortunately, in my life, I am surrounded by witnesses who speak of God’s justice and service with bold, compassionate voices. I’ve developed many of those relationships through the intentional community at Nazareth Farm in West Virginia. Those who are called to serve at the Farm are often seeking ways to live purposefully through radical hospitality, unconditional love, and the joy of the Gospel as shown by Jesus and the early disciples. Their examples push me to see beyond the division and seek the unity that is the ultimate call of Jesus and our Church. We also call each other out when someone is creating division. The consistent push and pull of our intentional relationships provide us safe spaces to grow. Many of those relationships have become even more fruitful as individuals move away, start families, and create their own intentional communities in new places. Because of that, instead of being disheartened when I see news of another shooting or ICE raid, I can find a little hope and a lot of motivation to work for justice as Jesus demands.
Often it does feel like we can’t do it, that there are too many voices on the other side, but we have to remember we can persevere. We have the ability to seek out colleagues, friends, and community members who are working for justice, to speak truth with our families, and to become active citizens in our communities. We can work to end the division by taking little steps that will add up to bigger strides toward unity in our families and communities.
Allyson Petry is the director of Nazareth Farm, a small, intentional Catholic community living and working in rural West Virginia. When not behind a desk, she enjoys joining her staff on home repair projects and visiting neighbors.