Weighing the Cost of Winning
Thoughts on the Second Readings by Joe Frankfield
25th Sunday in Ordinary Time
James 3:16 – 4:3

Two weeks ago, during president Obama’s address to congress about his health care proposals, a representative shouted, “You lie.” It was an astonishing moment. Everyone knew that people were holding different solutions for our health care problems. Everyone knew that passions were running hot. But everyone also knew that certain behaviors were out of bounds – even in this tense situation – and accusing the president of lying during a formal speech was one of them. The accusation of lying stops conversation cold. There’s no reason to continue.

When our arguments grow heated and we believe that important values are in jeopardy, we tend to grasp whatever weapons will overwhelm our opposer. We forget that we all sail in one very small boat. We need everyone to row if we’re to reach safe harbor. There is no other vessel around if this one sinks. We’re going to have to live together and rely on one another for a long time. Swinging lethal weapons – even with a just cause and victory assured – in such a situation endangers everyone.

The early Church faced many situations when warring passengers put its tiny boat in jeopardy. The contending parties were so caught up in their value that they forgot the fragility of their craft. Historians tell of entire Christian communities that vanished as a result of internal strife.

People can decide that the nobility of their cause justifies a fight to the death. They can convince themselves that they can accept the loss of their boat if necessary. In their passion they can also forget how many others they doom to a deep grave.

Our Church is a relationship among ourselves in communion with God. It exists only with internal good will. The withdrawal of that good will has mortal consequences. The loss is immense to those directly involved; it’s beyond counting when we consider that community’s potential for service beyond its membership. To maintain our trust in one another’s good will is essential if we’re to accomplish the task God asks of us and we’ve accepted.