How to Stop Fighting
How to Stop fighting. Anger is all around us. People are yelling at each other at school board meetings, council meetings, in the streets and in public places. It feels like even the simplest disagreements will boil over into angry fights. What is the antidote to this? How is it we can move away from this anger to something more helpful to recognize the common connection we share as humans?
I know that there is no instance in history that I can remember where we lived in a kind of utopia where all people lived in perfect harmony. Since human beings sinned, and continue to sin, relationships share in the brokenness produced by sin.
At the same time, our faith impels us to seek to live in harmony with all people. It is not enough to suggest we should stop at simply tolerating each other. We may not all agree but we need not be disagreeable. But in a world where the disagreements can be significant, and when there can be times to stand up for what is right and true is necessary and right.
So is there a way where we can work harder to be more and more in harmony with each other? Do we seek to ask the question the lawyer asked Jesus? Or do we seek to be more like Cain and his question? One of the questions concerns greater understanding of God’s law. The other is an attempt to escape responsibility for a sinful deed.
The Secret to a More Successful Life
It Begins with Relationships
From the beginning of the book of Genesis we learn an important truth about humans. It is not good for the man to be alone. To be made in the image and likeness of God is to be made for relationship. God is a trinity of persons in perfect relationship to be one God. To be like God means that we too are made for such relationships as well.
And when Jesus summarizes the Law by telling us to love God and to love our neighbor, this emphasis on relationship is made clear. Let’s examine a little more closely the two questions in context, and let’s see how it is that almsgiving can be the proper prescription for difficulties in growing in holiness.
And who is my neighbor?
The context of the story of the Good Samaritan, which is the way Jesus provides an answer to this question is that a scholar of the law poses a question. “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And what a good question this is. In many ways this is the question we are trying to answer for ourselves during the season of Lent.
Jesus, as he often does, answers with a question. “What is written in the law? How do you read it?” This is a great technique, especially because it forces reflection. The scholar of the law answers with the Great Commandment. “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”
The scholar of the Law wants further clarity, or perhaps is looking for a way out of having to believe everyone else was his neighbor. Jesus turns the world view of the scholar upside down. It is not only the “ritually pure” who are to be neighbor, but even hated enemies like the Samaritans. The answer to this question turns the attention outward.
Am I my brother’s keeper?
For Cain, the question is not asked to grow deeper into faith in God, but rather to avoid responsibility for the terrible crime he committed in murdering his brother Abel. Cain is trying to run away from the murder he commits by playing games with God.
While it is not clear why God rejected Cain’s gift, what is clear is that indeed, Cain is his brother’s keeper. And it is also clear the violence of Cain gets worse in his son Lamech. The bottom line is that trying to turn away from the expectations God has for us makes things worse for each of us.
How is it we view others?
And so the two stories present two different ways of viewing others, and subsequently viewing almsgiving. Do we consider every other person as an invitation given us by Jesus to serve Him, or do we view people as possible threats to our stuff?
How we answer this question makes all the difference. Just imagine if we saw every other person as the Christ! If we did so, it would be easy to see how to stop fighting. But when we do not see the Christ in others, it becomes easier to hide, to back away, to consider others not only a threat, but perhaps not even seeing them as equal to me!
When it is we consider almsgiving during Lent, then, it is really our opportunity to discover who our neighbor is. Can you strive to be generous to every person in need because you can see in them the person of Jesus Christ? Can we see the invitation to be generous even if we see someone we do not like, or trust, or find easy to be with?
There Is No Shortage of People in Need
We do not need to look very far to see that Jesus gives us this invitation to be generous to others all the time. Our neighbor could be living next door, down the street, across town or across the globe.
Can we understand the preferences of our God? God comes to us in people like us, in people somewhat different than us, or in people very unlike us. And this is good. None of us can be the fullness of humanity. We need the vast differences of the humans all over the world to discover that in each person we are given the change to see God a little more clearly.
But how can we serve our neighbor if we cannot even listen to them? How is it we can serve our neighbor if we think they should simply stay where they came from? It is hardly accidental when Jesus uses the Samaritan, the hated Samaritan, as the hero of the story, as this is something Jesus does in many of his parables.
Otherwise we can be like the foolish child who thinks he is so grown up he no longer needs anyone else’s help. Parents see glimpses of this in their children at various stages of their life. How often can it be the case the toddler wants to do things only in one way? What about the grumpy middle school student who ignores all advice, or the adolescent who in moody outbursts withdraws from all help?
So before we think of almsgiving in terms of money, what if we began to think of almsgiving as the type of sacrifice that enables us to build the bridges between seemingly different people? And as you think about what God is calling you to do in terms of almsgiving, consider people in need. Learn about their situation. Help near and far.
Want to Be Generous? Be Generous
In everything Lent asks us to do the answer about how we grow into praying, fasting, and almsgiving is to do it. If we want to be courageous, then it happens when we show courage. If we want to be honest, it happens the more we are honest. And if we want to be generous, we need to continually practice performing generous actions.
And if you really want to see your generosity soar, consider being generous to those you simply do not like. It might even be someone you do not like at all. Because the ability to see yourself change, whether you are 9 or 90 is about changing and growing.
Most of the world is likely worse off than you are when you consider economic wealth and opportunity. So while it is true that “charity begins at home” it is also true that too many people in other parts of the world are suffering and sharing those sufferings as the suffering Christ.
So here are some examples. If I want to grow in charity, then it becomes important for me to train myself in the act of being charitable. And when I fast, I become more aware of what it can be to go without, and therefore find myself more charitable when I encounter someone who goes without.
Do you turn outward towards others in need (And who is my neighbor?) or do we turn inward, (Am I my brother’s keeper?), trying to weasel our way out of trouble in any way we can. Are we seeking to move toward God by being generous to others, or do we try to turn way from God by hiding and asking evasive questions?
Conversion – Turn Toward God
So who in your world is in need to a real experience of generosity? Who in the world needs their brokenness healed so that they can be made whole? Who is it that God is calling us to help? How does your turning outward become more aware of your own brokenness and ways God can heal and help you?
So, Do Some Homework? Who can you help?
One potential strategy is to consider a local person or organization to help, and also to consider an international organization to help. Sometimes we can think it is one OR the other, but it need not be that way. We could do both.
In this way we expand our understanding of neighbor in a way that helps us to see those in need differently. Turning away from ourselves means turning toward someone else, be it another person or to God?
So during this season of Lent, think about how it is that you are going to become more generous? How will you embrace more prayer, fasting and almsgiving? How will you go about using almsgiving to better be preparing for Lent. Look around you. See the people in our town and in another country. And realize, when you take generosity seriously, you get the chance to offer your life just as Jesus gave his.
Bible Verses to Ponder
Reflection Questions to Ponder
Who is our neighbor?
What holds you back from being generous?
What type of people or person do you find it difficult to practice almsgiving for?
In what ways is almsgiving difficult?
What times have their been in your life that you found almsgiving rewarding?
Heavenly Father, we praise and glorify your name. We praise you because you have given us so many blessings, even if we do not always see these blessings. We thank you for the gifts and talents you have given to us, gifts that we can use to help others. We praise you Lord for the people you have sent into our lives to teach us how it is we can be more generous, those who have taught us to be more faithful and true to you.
We also know Lord God, that sometimes we do not want to see others in the way that you see them. We would rather make them enemies, or to convince ourselves that we do not really need to help some people.
Help us to grow to be more like you. Help us to grow in your love and help us to love more and more like you love. Help us to see that all other people are made in your image and likeness. Help us to see that we are the keeper of others, and that we need always to ask your help and grace so that we an become more like you.
And so we make this prayer in the name of your son, Jesus, for He is Your Son, You sent Him to save us, you showed us your overwhelming love for each of us by having Him die on the cross for us. In His name we pray. Amen.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Other Helps to Grow in the Spiritual Life
Participate in the Friar Book Club, where you can read along with the Confessions of Saint Augustine, and soon the Meditations for Time of Retreat and the Companion to the Summa by Walter Farrell, OP.
Search our website for devotional prayers. You can ask for people and the friar to pray for you, and you can pray for others. There are three ways you can pray the rosary. You can pray the traditional rosary (the one you may have learned as a child). But you can also pray the rosary in a tradition that comes from the Dominicans or you can pray the rosary in a tradition that comes from the Lasallians. All of the links to the rosary come with audio recordings so that you can pray the rosary in the car, on your way to work, or anytime you are otherwise occupied.
There will be other resources which you can find as well. The high school students I teach and work with will offer a reflection each day. Of course all those who ask me to pray should know that I do each day, twice a day.
And sometimes it is helpful to know what is going on in the Church, and so from time to time I post news stories from the Church too. I pray that all of you will find a deep and fulfilling personal relationship with Jesus. Nothing is more important or able to change your life than that. And I pray that this relationship with Jesus changes your life in every way. It can.
When you see the world as God sees the world, it does not mean there are not hard times or that there is not still suffering and sin, but it does mean that none of these things do you need to experience on your own. Be sure to come back tomorrow.