My wife and I have become hooked on a Netflix mini-series called The Crown, which dramatically tells the story of Queen Elizabeth II and her reign from the 1940s to present day England.
It’s been fascinating so far. We’ve made it through the first season and are just getting into the second. We are enjoying the powerful acting performances, good writing and the dramatic images of a time that seems not too long ago in our memories.
We are also intrigued by the lengths that the royal family and its web of advisors have gone to keep the family dynasty together. It has never been easy. History is filled with stories of royal brother turning against brother, sister against sister, parents against children.
Intense family rivalries indeed. But that’s nothing new. Nor is it unique to the English royalty.
Scripture is chock full of such rivalries – Cain and Abel, Ishmael and Isaac, Jacob and Esau, just to name a few.
We also see it today when family businesses crumble, empires dissolve and high-profile legal battles become public in the courts. We see heirs to mighty fortunes bring armies of lawyers to defend their claims against the last dying wishes of a patriarch.
It can make for quite the scandal.
There is something about these rivalries that we love to watch. It’s troubling to see so many cheer whenever a sibling rivalry threatens to tear down what was once a proud family. (Just to clarify, this is not why we are enjoying the Crown. We don’t cheer on the destruction of the family – any family, for that matter.)
In today’s gospel, Jesus uses the story of an exorcism – and the subsequent charge against him that perhaps he was able to expel a demon because He himself is a demon – to teach about the dangers of a house divided. He did this because those suggesting his powers came from Satan instead of God were part of Jesus’s own people. His family. The very ones who should have been first to support Him.
Jesus tells the crowd:
“If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.”
In our first reading, we read the story of King David, who would bring together a divided people; creating a united Israel and sparking a kingdom that would never be forgotten. This is something we should always hope for and strive for in our Church.
Day of Prayer …
With that in mind, it is notable to recognize that on today’s Liturgical Calendar, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has deemed this, officially, a Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children. That means in today’s liturgies, all Catholics – indeed, all Christians – are asked to pray for a renewed and legal respect for life that has gradually been weakening since 1973.
Talk about a house divided.
As I reflected on how I would respond today to this call of the bishops, while also meditating on today’s readings, I looked for ways to write about the pro-life theology and teachings of the Roman Catholic Church … and how they have been summarily rejected by so many.
I was striving to write a reflection without getting into the messy politics of our day. It would seem to be so simple. What could be more innocent than to express your love for all of God’s children – born and unborn, rich and poor, sick and dying; no matter their color, culture, gender or religion.
But in today’s divided culture, an expression like that can get you painted into an extreme corner. Many would have you believe that if one is pro-life, then they must also be against women, condone sexual abuse, male dominance and the general repression of all women under any circumstance.
This, of course, is contradicted by the number of women (especially young women) who turned out in huge numbers last week during the pro-life March for Life in Washington.
It is heartening to see such support among the young.
Still, we must face the fact that we are divided now more than ever over this issue of life and who gets to decide – when, where, how and if – that life is permitted to continue.
We are divided in our homes, our neighborhoods, our political parties, our churches, our nations … all across the globe.
It seems like there is no answer and no end.
So, what are we left to do?
Like all seemingly insurmountable obstacles, we need to recapture that “faith of a mustard seed” and continue to pray that mountains can be moved and hearts can be changed.
Because as much as we would like to see the 1973 law reversed, we must keep in mind that there are many things that are still illegal – murder, theft, robbery, drugs, drinking and driving – many things that we have come to agree should NOT be tolerated by society.
And yet, they continue to happen.
So yes, pray for the legal protection of the unborn. But don’t forget to pray for those who are caught up in the moment of what is seemingly a huge obstacle in their lives …
Pray for her. Pray for him. Pray for a strong supporting cast, whether that be family or friends. Pray that God can soften their hearts, give them hope and permit them to see beyond the mountains that they fear.
And pray for the day that this issue no longer divides us in hatred and anger; but unites us in love and compassion.
For all living souls – from conception to natural death, and all its wonderful stages in between.