A SERMON BY FATHER FRANCIS MAPLE
THE FINE ART OF LIVING TOGETHER Luke 2:41-52
The number one need of our world today is for people to learn to live together in harmony. How wonderful it would be if people of all religions and nationalities lived peacefully. Peace would prevail everywhere.
Jesus went with His family to the Passover Feast in Jerusalem. They made the pilgrimage in a large company of friends and relatives. When the feast was over, everyone started home, except Jesus. He decided to stay behind. Mary and Joseph and their party had travelled one full day without Him, assuming that He was somewhere in the group. Sometime that evening, it became apparent that He was not with them. His frantic parents headed back to Jerusalem in search of their Child. It took the better part of three days for them to find Him. Can you imagine what they were feeling during that time?
When they finally found Him, Mary said, "Son, why have You done this to us?" A question that any mother or father would ask under the same circumstances. Not that He was deliberately unkind. He felt the call from His Father to stay on in Jerusalem. But we can ask, "Why didn't He inform His parents? It would have saved them a lot of heartache.
After this event, we are told that He went home with them and "progressed steadily in wisdom and age and grace before God and men". He was learning many things, among them the fine art of living together. What are the basic ingredients of this art? I think the first is commitment. For people to live together in harmony, they must be committed to one another. A man and a woman stand at a church altar, and say, "I do". That is their answer to the questions, "Do you take this woman to be your wife? Do you take this man to be your husband?" They, of course, are doing more than taking. They are also giving themselves, each to the other. That is one of life's deepest commitments. Without it, there can be no marriage. There can be no home. There can be no successful living together. Joseph and Mary made that commitment, which is part of the reason we call them "the Holy Family". The process, however, does not stop there. A baby comes into the home, and the parents enlarge their commitment. It now includes their new born baby.
Whatever it may cost them, they will see to it that his or her needs are met. They will provide food, clothing, shelter, discipline and, above all, love. No sacrifice will be too great, if caring for their child requires it of them. That is what it means to be parents. It is, first and foremost, a commitment to their child. In the Bible, especially the New Testament, the family is the main model for living together. But it neither begins nor ends with husband, wife, and child. Paul traced it back to God. In his letter to the Colossians, he wrote, "You are God's chosen ones." That means God has committed Himself to us. Then, on the basis of that, Paul expanded it to include other people. He appealed for "heartfelt mercy, with kindness, humility, and patience." "Bear with one another", he said, "Forgive as the Lord has forgiven you." When we recognize the commitment that God has made to us, it stands to reason that we would make the same commitment to others. It would just not make sense for us to exclude anyone.
If we are to live together in harmony there is another ingredient and that is compromise. Whether it be in the family, or community, or nation, or world, living together is a matter of give and take, which means compromise. The husband, who always has to be right, will never have a good marriage. He may win the arguments, but he will lose the trust and respect of his wife. The people in authority, who always have to be right, will never have a harmonious city. They may win the struggles, but they will lose the spirit of community. The nation that always has to dominate cannot be assured of peace. Whenever and wherever people live together, sadly you will find conflict, but this should not be so if there is give and take and compromise and love for one another.
Lord Jesus, living together in harmony is the number one challenge facing our world today. The three things needed for there to be peace in our world today are respect for one another, commitment and compromise.
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