A House Divided

Homily for October 8, 2010

abraham lincolnIf we could first know where we are, and whither we are tending, we could better judge what to do, and how to do it. We are now far into the fifth year since a policy was initiated with the avowed object, and confident promise, of putting an end to slavery agitation. Under the operation of that policy, that agitation has not only not ceased, but has constantly augmented. In my opinion, it will not cease, until a crisis shall have been reached and passed. “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” I believe this government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing, or all the other. Either the opponents of slavery will arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction; or its advocates will push it forward, till it shall become alike lawful in all the States, old as well as new — North as well as South.

That was Abraham Lincoln speaking on June 16, 1858 about slavery in the United States.

Two years later, Lincoln would be elected President and the southern states would have begun succeeding from the Union.  Three years later, in 1861, Confederate forces would fire on Fort Sumpter and the Civil War would begin. As Lincoln predicted, it would take a great crisis to bring us together.  We would be united again, but only after much bloodshed and the loss of thousands of American lives on both sides.

Lincoln’s reference to a “house divided” comes from the 11th chapter of Luke’s Gospel, which I just read.  Anything divided against itself doesn’t have much chance of surviving, whether it’s a family, a country, a church, or even Satan himself as Jesus points out.

We should take Jesus’ words and Lincoln’s words to heart when we look at what’s going on in the world today.  Have you ever seen more division?  In our own Church there are so-called Liberal Catholics and Conservative Catholics pulling the Church first one way then another.  But in reality, there’s only one Church.  This pendulum has been swinging back and forth for more than 2,000 years.

Even in the earliest years, there was division in the Church.  Paul alludes to it in the first reading.  Some early Christians thought that they had to adhere strictly to Jewish law and some thought Jewish law was abolished with the new covenant.  It became a big issue when Paul and others started converting gentiles.  Did a gentile have to be circumcised to become a Christian?  Did he or she have to follow Jewish dietary laws?  It took the first Church Council, held in Jerusalem in the first century to settle the issue.

What about our country?  Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like the United States is more divided today than it was even in Lincoln’s time.  There is no civil discourse.  Conservatives and Liberals would rather shout one another down than work to achieve any meaningful solutions.  Meanwhile, our economy is in the dumpster and we live in constant fear of terrorist attacks.  Many people of faith are more concerned with the things that separate us than with the things that bring us together.

So, you and I, as Christian Catholics are left to do what we do best and that’s PRAY!  Pray for peace.  Pray for a return to economic prosperity, not just for the United States but for all the world.  And pray that our country wakes up to the fact that we’ve been blessed by God in ways our forefathers never dreamed of.  We have a beautiful country and abundant natural resources.  We have an attitude, or at least we used to, that with God anything is possible.  But many of our brothers and sisters have turned away from God.  It’s up to us to pray those people back into the fold.

It’s up us to not let the atheists take away our rights to pray, to worship God, and to make our country, one nation, under God, once again.

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