Both of today’s readings contain elements of friction or conflict. In the first reading, we hear about internal conflicts, those things going on inside of ourselves. As the early church was being formed, the old ways of thinking were hard to shake to change. Behaviors and attitudes cultivated over generations are so ingrained in our souls that we really don’t see how there can be a change. But that is what Jesus called us to, a radical transformation where our very essence would be forever changed. The early disciples received the gift of faith but still had work to do in purifying themselves. I recently saw a great example of this in the movie Captain America, Civil War. The Avengers are mired in conflict. Each member of the group bringing their own history with them into the new life they were living to fight evil in the world. Probably not too unlike the early disciples. To be sure the Avengers are a passionate bunch, caring very deeply about their cause. Passion is good, though, as passion is what motivates people to keep going and to accomplish great things. Passionate people working through conflicts have the capacity to accomplish great things as long as they will allow themselves to be healed and submit themselves to God.
Where do the wars and where do the conflicts among you come from?
Is it not from your passions that make war within your members? James 4:1
We struggle because of sin and the efforts of the devil. We find our help in the following verse:
So submit yourselves to God.
Resist the Devil, and he will flee from you.
Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.
Cleanse your hands, you sinners,
and purify your hearts, you of two minds.
Begin to lament, to mourn, to weep.
Let your laughter be turned into mourning
and your joy into dejection.
Humble yourselves before the Lord
and he will exalt you. James 4:7-10
society today seems to want to avoid friction and conflict. We need to remember that friction produces heat and heat is used to purify and to bind. We just celebrated Pentecost where tongues of fire came down upon the apostles and bound the Holy Spirit to them in a special way. Heat and friction are necessary to ignite passions and to move people to greatness. We find more friction today in the Gospel:
They came to Capernaum and, once inside the house,
he began to ask them,
“What were you arguing about on the way?”
But they remained silent.
For they had been discussing among themselves on the way
who was the greatest.
Then he sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them,
“If anyone wishes to be first,
he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.” Mark 9:33-35
Jesus noticed the friction among the disciples while they were travelling but he did not stop them right away. he let them argue until they had arrived where they were going. He gave them a chance to heat up their passions. I think that because of the friction and heat of the discussion, the disciples were able to receive the teaching from Jesus more readily. Without conflict and friction we become complacent. I watched this happen when I first joined the Catholic Church. while I professed my faith and went to mass regularly, I was wrestling with a strong belief in the death penalty. this did cause friction in me. I was at odds with church teaching and my past. I struggled with this for years. Eventually, I came to align myself with church teaching on the sanctity of life. Thinking back, though, I probably would not have made the move if there had not been a ‘war within my members’. One of the greatest shames wold be a life lived with no conflict, where we just accepted everything in a great big sea of moral relativism. Let’s go and embrace the friction and turn up the heat.