The Lord of the Flies, the famous novel by William Golding, shows the tragic consequences when there exists deep divisions between people. His view of human nature suggests a pessimistic view that suggests that without societal controls humanity will become very destructive. And yet, in that same novel, there are those who seem to rise above the negativity of humanity even if it is the case they pay a great price for holding fast to their conscience and their dedication to the common good.
What causes the great rift between Jack and Ralph, and how is it that each attracts people to subscribe to this way of looking at the world? Why is it that some are attracted to Jack and the type of concern for self-preservation and power that does not appeal to Ralph and those who hold fast to him?
We could ask this same question when we consider the world, both today and historically. In the height of the riots in Los Angeles, it was Rodney King who posed the question, “Can’t we all just get along?” We could clearly still ask that question today? Why is it the world is such a chaotic place? Why is it that the world is filled with such gruesome and gross violence? How is it that things have come to this?
For Catholics, we recognize that there is a consequence that occurs when everyone sins. The harm is not just to ourselves, or to those impacted by our actions, but by our sin we harm everyone. Every since the first sin, all of us have had this predisposition to sin. While it is not that “we cannot help it”, it is the case that we all stand in need of the grace of God to do what is right.
This is a counter narrative to the “American spirit.” As Americans, we embrace the type of rugged individualism that causes us to believe that we do not need anyone else’s help. We can go it alone.
Today’s readings remind us that we not only belong to God, but we also are dependent upon God and God’s mercy if we are ever to move beyond the hostility and division we all experience. Too often, we seek to move beyond this by force, or by withholding from others what we have. Rather than share, we seek to hoard; rather than welcoming the stranger, we want to build walls. On the one hand we can embrace the values of our faith, while at the same time acting in a way that is contrary to the will of God and the example of Jesus.
Remember all that God has done for you. The suffering and death of Jesus has enabled us to experience new life. If we are open to the grace of God, we become reconciled with one another. By surrendering to the will of God and his grace, divisions are melted away, and if not, at least our example of life can become the seed of a new and vibrant faith.
God wants to reconcile you to him today. Seek that grace. Go to confession. Find the deep mercy of God that longs, again and again, to embrace us with the deep and powerful love we cannot even begin to fully understand.