We all have differences. We come from different backgrounds. We had different upbringings. We studied in different schools. We have different addresses. We work in different offices. In other words, there is no one person who is perfectly similar to another person on this earth. How do we handle differences?
In the first reading, there are differences of opinion. On the one hand, there is the question of whether to take Gentiles into the Christian Church; on the other hand, whether to require them first to be circumcised to become Jews. The differences in opinion are so strong that they have to be brought to the college of apostles. They are so intense that they are dividing the Christian Church.
In the Gospel, we are also confronted with differences—implied ones. There are no two leaves on the vine that are the same, and there are no two grapes on the vine that are the same. There are no two twigs that are identical in every way. Each part of the plant is different from the other parts.
How do we handle differences? In the first reading, they handle their differences by talking and putting God in their dialogue. In the Gospel, the leaves, the fruits, the twigs, all of them, attach themselves to the main vine that is the source of their unity. The point is, we may have differences in opinion and orientation. Our “leaves” may differ; but if we attach ourselves to Jesus, we can overcome our differences. The difficulty begins when we put more stress on the things that distinguish us, than on the things that bind us. The difficulty arises when we focus our attention on the things that divide us, rather than on the things that unite us.
We are all attached to the vine. Jesus is the vine. We are all attached to the Church. We must always be in dialogue in the Church. There will be progressives, conservatives, old-timers, newcomers. There will be men, women, priests and lay people. But no matter what we are and how different we are from one another, if we remain attached to Jesus, the differences can become our blessings.
Let us lift to the Lord our differences in opinion, our differences in decisions, even our differences in principles in life. Let us ask the Lord for the grace of tolerance—loving tolerance—to accept one another in the name of Jesus.
PATH TO UNITY
Acts 15:1-6; Jn 15:1-8
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