Fraternal union: meditation on the seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost
By Fr Gabriel of St Mary Magdalene OCD | 20 September 2023
Meditation from Divine Intimacy
O my God, give me the grace to preserve union with my neighbour by the bonds of charity and peace.
As Jesus, during His earthly life, never ceased to recommend fraternal charity and union, so the Church in the Sunday Masses continually preaches this virtue. She does it today by making use of a passage in St Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians (4:1–3). “I therefore … beseech you that you walk worthy of the vocation in which you are called, with all humility and mildness, with patience, supporting one another in charity, careful to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” The call which we have received is the vocation to Christianity, which is to say, the vocation to love. God, infinite Charity, adopts us as His children, that we may so emulate His charity that love becomes the bond which unites us all in one heart, as the Father and Son are united in one Godhead by the bond of the Holy Spirit. “As Thou, Father, in Me, and I in Thee; that they also may be one in Us” (Jn 17:21) was the prayer of Jesus for us.
To “keep unity in the bond of peace” is easy and difficult at the same time. It is easy because when the heart is truly humble, meek, and patient, it bears everything with love, carefully trying to adapt itself to the feelings and desires of others, rather than asserting its own. It is difficult because, as long as we are here below, self-love, even when mortified, always tends to rise and assert its rights, thus creating continual occasions of clashes, the avoidance of which calls for much self-renunciation and much delicacy toward others. We should be persuaded that all that disturbs, weakens, or worse still, destroys fraternal union, does not please God; it does not please Him even if done under pretext of zeal. We should always prefer to renounce our own ideas — although they be good — rather than dispute with our neighbour, except when it is a question of fulfilment of duty or respect for the law of God. An act of humble renunciation for the sake of union and peace among our brethren gives much more glory to God than a glorious deed which might cause discord or disagreement.
Very often the cause of division among good people is excessive self-assertion: the desire to do things one’s own way. Given our limitations, there can be nothing so absolute in our ideas that it cannot give way to the ideas of others. If our ideas are good, upright, and brilliant, those of others may be equally good, or even better. Therefore, it is much wiser, more humble and charitable to accept the views of others and to try to reconcile our views with theirs, rather than to reject them, lest we be obliged to give up our personal ways and views. This individualism is the enemy of union; it is a hindrance to good works as well as to spiritual progress.
In today’s epistle, St Paul puts before us all the reasons why we should preserve union with our neighbour. Be “one body and one spirit; as you are called in one hope of your calling. One Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all”. If God has willed to save and sanctify us all in Christ, uniting us in Him in one body, giving us one same vocation, one faith, and one hope, and being Himself the Father of all, how shall we pretend to save and sanctify ourselves if we are not united with one another? If we do not wish to frustrate God’s plan and endanger our salvation and sanctification, we should be ready to make any personal sacrifice whatsoever in order to maintain and strengthen union. Let us bear in mind that Jesus has asked for us not only union, but perfect union: “That they may be made perfect in one.” (Jn 17:23)
Today’s gospel (Mt 22:34–46) also strengthens this exhortation to union, since in it Jesus repeats that the commandment to love our neighbour is, together with the commandment to love God, the basis of “the whole law”, that is, of all Christianity. Let us not turn a deaf ear to these repeated appeals for charity and union; the Church insists on these points because Jesus has insisted on them, and because charity is “the precept of the Lord; if this only is done, it is enough”. (St John the Evangelist).
“O Word, Son of God, You look with more complacency on one work done in fraternal union and charity than on a thousand done in discord; one tiny little act, like the closing of an eye, performed in union and charity, pleases You more than if I were to suffer martyrdom in disunion and without charity. Where there is union, You are present, for You call Yourself charity: Deus caritas est — “God is charity”. You call Yourself the God of peace and union: Deus pacis — “God of peace”. You are the source of all peace, and without You there can be neither true peace nor union. False is the peace and union among sinners; it cannot last long, because as their hearts are dominated by the tyranny of sin and of passions, the bond which unites them quickly breaks; it is a weak bond no stronger than a thread of tow. Therefore, from You alone, O God, comes perfect union, and where there is disunion, confusion reigns because of sin and the devil. With what great desire should we seek this union and love it with all our heart! Where there is union, there is all good, there is an abundance of all things, of all celestial and terrestrial riches.
“O Most Holy Trinity, give us, then, the grace to live always united with one another, preserving union of spirit, having one will and opinion, imitating the indivisible unity which exists among the three divine Persons.”St Mary Magdalen dei Pazzi
“Where charity and love are, You are there also, O Lord! Your love, O Christ, has united us in one body and one heart; grant, then, that we may love one another with a sincere heart. Keep far from us all quarrels and contentions; grant that our hearts may be always united in You, and do You dwell always in our midst.”The Liturgy