Our readings and feast today remind us that always – always! – there is conflict in the Church. I John speaks of the “antichrist” and those “who went out from us, but… [do] not belong to us” – John’s community was facing internal dissension. And Luke, speaking of being brought before synagogues and authorities, alludes to conflict between the synagogue and the first Christians. These are appropriate readings for today’s feast, Hilary of Poitiers, who was a bishop during the 4th century and the height of the Arian heresy (which said that Son was created and therefore not equal with, the Father). In John’s and Luke’s communities in the first century, and throughout Christianity in the 4th century, there was conflict.
There is conflict in today’s Church, too. Consider the conflict ten years ago caused by the consecration of Gene Robinson. Or remember the conflict over the ordination of women back in the 1970’s. Or look at the consternation among some in the Roman church by the election of Pope Francis in 2013. I remember hearing an NPR interview with a spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Boston maybe ten years ago, in which the interviewer kept referring to “the Church in crisis” (I don’t now recall what the crisis was…). The spokesperson interrupted the interviewer to say, “The Church is always in crisis.”
If we were a Bishop during a time of conflict we might, like Hilary, engage in a lot of high-profile politicking, or perhaps we might write a monumental treatise as Hilary did, On the Trinity. But what might the rest of us do when the Church is in crisis – not “if,” but “when?” I would hope that in a time of conflict I would do what I trust Hilary did during conflict in his time: pray. Yes, pray for the Church. Yes, pray for truth. Yes, pray for your opponent(s) in the conflict. But perhaps most importantly of all, simply pray. Simply continue to engage God faithfully in prayer, continue nurturing our relationship with God, continue opening our hearts to God’s love for us, continue deepening and developing our relationship with God. For as we deepen and develop our relationship with God, our prayer will be as an anchor that sinks down into the depths, holding not only us firm in God, but also helping to anchor those around us in the heart of the One who loves us, who reconciles, who is always working to bring about His plan of salvation.
We are going to have conflict in the Church; “the Church is always in crisis.” But that crisis need not deter us from pursuing our heart’s desire, which is to be anchored and rooted in God, who loves us beyond measure and who is always working His purposes for our good.