Shine Like Stars

January 19, 2020 | N W | Deacon Eddie, Healing, Ordinary Time, Trust, Wisdom

Richmond Diocese Bicentennial Mass
January 19, 2020—Year A
Readings: Is 60:1-6 / Ps 25 / Acts 2:42-47 / Mt 18:15-20
by Rev. Mr. Eddie Craig, Permanent Deacon

For those of you who are keeping score at home, you may be saying to yourself: “Wait a minute. Today is the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time. Why are you wearing white? Shouldn’t you be wearing green, and something’s weird with these readings that we did today.” And maybe, if you’re really, really keeping score at home, you would have noticed that the Collect at the beginning was…different.

Well, you’d be right, because today, the Second Sunday of Ordinary Time, we’ve just finished the season of Christmas, and we’re beginning the first part of Ordinary Time. Today, though, we are celebrating the beginning of the bicentennial year of our diocese. Two hundred years ago this year, our diocese of Richmond was formed. Prior to that, we were part of the diocese of Baltimore.

But as Catholics are prone to do, they started coming together, and they started forming communities. Of course then they naturally wanted Mass; they wanted priests. But it was the responsibility of the bishop of Baltimore to make that happen. So think about that: two hundred years ago, if you want to talk to the bishop, he’s in Baltimore. It’s bad enough today when we have cars and you’re two and a half hours from Richmond.

They made do for a while, but then, as generally happens in groups of people, some issues arose, and the pope decided that we needed to subdivide. So two hundred years ago, they broke off Virginia from Baltimore and created a new diocese. It was a rocky start, but two hundred years later, we are still here. In fact, we are actually smaller than we were then, because back then it included West Virginia and all of what is currently Virginia. (Since then, they’ve actually broken off Arlington, the very northern part of Virginia.)

At the deacon convocation we had a wonderful presentation on the history of the Richmond diocese. I was struck by how things back then were not much different than they are now. Now, as then, people tend to come together, people of like mind, because, since we were created in the image and likeness of God, we are made to live in community.

When people come together, questions start coming up. Back then, the questions were: “Who actually owns the church building?” and “Who gets to pick who the pastor is?” Questions of authority. Questions of authority come up all the time here, come up at work, and, if you have teenagers, you know that questions of authority come up at home quite a bit, too. And they come up in the Church.

One of the great truths of the universe is this: Where two or more are gathered together, somebody’s going to disagree. And conflict arises. Back then, as now, the conflicts are usually pretty much the same. There’s always the question of who’s in charge. We proclaim every week in the Creed that we are a holy, apostolic, and catholic Church. We are a Church that is led by a group of individuals descended all the way back from Christ Himself, and we are universal.

But that is always in tension with the concept of subsidiarity, a part of Catholic social teaching. Subsidiarity is the idea that the lowest level group generally knows what is best for that group. So the tension arises. The local community generally knows what’s best for them, but you still have the hierarchical authority. It works pretty good most of the time, but invariably issues come up, and conflict arises.

What do we do about that in the Church, at work, and in our homes? Today’s gospel reading has some good advice. Jesus says in the gospel today that, if your brother sins against you, go and talk to him. If you have an issue with somebody, step one should be to talk to the person, not tweet about it. Not post it on Facebook. Because, true to subsidiarity, the smallest group generally knows what needs to be done.

But not always. Sometimes the situation needs to step up. In dealing with these conflicts, as much as I would like to not do it, I have to remind myself that generally all parties believe they are right and believe they are acting in the best interest. Rarely there are people who are just not acting in the best interest and know it, but for the most part, I have to remind myself that people generally are good.

In that case, Jesus suggests taking it up a notch, because when conflict arises, it helps to have non-interested parties who are maybe not so emotionally involved: a mediator, like we have in our legal system. Quite often, conflicts can be resolved by a third party who is not as emotionally invested.

Last, Jesus says to take it to a higher level. There may not ever be a solution that makes everybody happy. Quite often, it doesn’t, but we have to keep in mind that we know how things will eventually end.

In our first reading today, Isaiah paints a beautiful picture of the way things will be: peace and harmony. We know that we’re not going to get there until Jesus comes back. But, we should keep in mind the last line of the gospel: “Where two or three are gathered together in My name, there I am in the midst of them.”

We live our individual lives in community, in families, in jobs. And we live our lives as Christians in community, too. We are the body of Christ. It’s very specific language, because it’s true. We are grafted into a community, and we exist and we flourish in a community. And while we will never realize Isaiah’s vision in this life, if we work together, if we keep our eyes on Jesus, and if we open ourselves to the grace that we receive through the sacraments of His Church, we can do our best to move in that direction and maybe realize just a little bit of Isaiah’s vision of peace and harmony.