6th Sunday of Easter
May 26, 2019
Saint Mary Parish, Pylesville 4:00pm
Saint Matthew Parish, Baltimore 11:00am
There is a story about a family from New York who bought a ranch out in the West.
They planned to raise cattle there. Things were moving along okay and then a problem arose.
The father, his wife and his sons disagreed on what name to give the ranch. One day, the father said to some of his neighbors who lived near the ranch: “I wanted to name it the Bar-J.
“My wife favored the Suzy-Q. My one son liked the Flying-W and the other son wanted the Lazy-Y.
“So, we’re calling it the Bar-J-Suzy-Q-Flying-W-Lazy-Y.” The neighbors thought that this was a long and strange name but didn’t comment on that.
Instead, one of them asked, “Well, where are all the cattle?” The father replied, “Oh! None of them survived the branding!”
Early Church Conflict
That story is kind of a light way to look at today’s first reading.
The passage is about a disagreement among the early Christians that was more serious than the naming of a ranch. The issue was this.
Did the non-Jews who wanted to be baptized and become Christian first have to become Jews and accept all the Jewish practices? The issue caused a significant conflict.
The early Christians resolved this disagreement and the way they did it is a good model for us in dealing with conflicts. I see three ingredients here that are important for conflict resolution: 1) Act, 2) Ask, and 3) Appreciate.
First, we need to act. We need to face up to the conflict and deal with it.
The early Christians in today’s first reading acted quickly to address the conflict and heal the rift that was growing. If we don’t do this, the conflict will probably just get worse and become harmful.
That’s basically what happened with the family who disagreed on the name of the ranch and the result was that they ended up with no cattle. I think the Scriptural counsel of “not letting the sun go down on our anger” is another way of telling us to act and deal with a conflict.
The second important ingredient for conflict resolution is to ask for assistance. Sometimes conflicts need discernment from a third party.
Again, today’s Scripture passage says that the whole Jerusalem church participated in working out the disagreement. The lesson is that if the persons directly involved cannot resolve the conflict, the wisdom of others may be needed.
This might include another family member, a trusted friend, or a professional counselor. The point is: let’s be open to ask for the assistance of others when we are not successfully resolving a conflict.
And then the third ingredient is to appreciate the other persons involved in the conflict. Be respectful of them and try to understand their point of view.
The Scripture shows the early Christians doing exactly that. So, we need to work on the issue – how late the teens should be allowed to stay out or which household responsibilities will each spouse be responsible for.
And in doing this, we need to stay focused on the issue and not attack each other personally or call each other names, things like that. We need to appreciate each other as persons.
God, the Holy Spirit
So, 1) Act, 2) Ask, and 3) Appreciate – three A words for dealing maturely and spiritually with conflicts.
And as we do all of this, we also turn to God in prayer. We ask the Holy Spirit to enlighten and guide us.
The early Christians prayed together and, in the end, they even said, “It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and ours too.” That’s how clear they were about God’s presence in what they were doing.
Now, it will not always be possible to pray together with others with whom we are in conflict. But, we can at least do this on our own, privately.
If we do, the chances of resolving a conflict are much higher. And then, the chances are also much higher of experiencing the peace that Jesus offers as his farewell gift in today’s gospel.