On working for reconciliation, peace, and unity

AS I often say, we’re living in a polarized society. There are so many conflicts and divisions in our country today, especially during this presidential election campaign.

Protests and riots continue to arise, such as those in Portland, Oregon, and Kenosha, Wisconsin, causing more violence, killings, differences of opinions, and deep divisions among politicians and citizens.

When will we ever unify ourselves as a country? When will peace reign in our society? Many say until justice and equality prevail. Others say until lawmakers protect the sanctity of human life in all stages and respect every person’s dignity by giving them access to jobs, housing, and medical care.

Whatever our opinions are, we need to pray for peace and reconciliation in this country. We need to pray that whoever we elect as the next president and vice president will unite national and local leaders.

The work of unity is a Christian responsibility. In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus’ prescription on fraternal correction attests to it. Whenever offenses occur in a Christian community, its members must take the crucial task of reconciling the parties involved. They should do it based on love and concern for its members.

Indeed, our love for one another is the basis of any work of reconciliation. St. Paul reminds us about it in the Second Reading (Romans 13:8-10): “Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery; you shall not kill, you shall not steal, you shall not covet; and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this saying, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no evil to the neighbor; hence, love is the fulfillment of the law.”

Let’s not allow our differences to destroy the love and unity among us. As they say, let’s agree to disagree, but still, maintain peace and respect for one another.

It takes a great deal of courage and maturity to work for reconciliation, peace, and unity among us. Who says that this work is easy? But remember what Jesus told Peter in the Gospel last Sunday. “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.”

Hence, the work of unity and reconciliation involves the ability to carry the cross of humility, restraint, compassion, mutual respect and understanding, and the ability to listen to one another. All these things involve losing one’s life for the sake of Christ. And whenever we fulfill this work, heaven and earth unite, for whatever is bound or loosed by the community on earth is also considered bound and loosed in heaven.

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Fr. Rodel “Odey” Balagtas is the pastor of Incarnation Church in Glendale, California.

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