Homily for the Memorial of St. Francis de Sales
In the Gospel that we have just heard, Jesus says something very practical that all of us should take note of, especially in our current climate. “If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.” In the context of the Gospel, Jesus was speaking about Satan working against himself. But it’s also a warning for us as Christians. We are better united than we are divided – that pertains to our own families, our own communities, our own nation, our own Church.
The Evil One thrives when we, as brothers and sisters, are at odds with one another. Too often, we allow differences in opinion to divide us against one another. We often look at a person’s political party, the person’s stance on vaccines or masks, or the person’s position on abortion…whatever the case might be…if it is different from our own position or our own allegiances, we allow those differences to lead to us totally cutting those people out of our lives. That’s exactly what the Evil One wants to happen. So we have to resist that temptation. A house divided against itself cannot stand.
The saint that we remember today understood that well. St. Francis de Sales preached in the days during the Reformation, when there was so much division within the Church and within society. Men like Martin Luther and John Calvin had convinced people that truths held and professed by the Catholic Church for centuries were now suddenly outdated and that it was time for a reawakening in human freedom. They encouraged a breaking from the traditions of our faith and, sadly, they took a lot of Catholics along with them.
St. Francis de Sales saw what was happening in the Church. And he worked tirelessly, often times behind the scenes, to remind people of the central truths of our faith. Francis did that by producing numerous pamphlets about the Church and would go around at night placing those pamphlets under the doors of his neighbors who were converting to Calvinism. It is said that he brought over 20,000 people back to the Church by that simple act.
St. Francis de Sales understood the importance of unity in the Church. He understood the importance of relationship in achieving reconciliation between the Church and those who were embracing teachings far from the Truth. That should be a challenge for all of us, especially right now. There is so much confusion and deceit in the world and it is leading people away from God. Maybe some of us are included in that number. We have to work to bring about a sense of unity in the Church. But we can’t bring people back to the truths of our faith if all we do is tell them that they’re wrong. We have to meet them where they’re at. We have to remind them that they are sons and daughters of God, loved immensely by the Father and by us.
Showing love, compassion, and mercy is the only way that we can work towards bringing about unity in the Church and in our society. Relationship is so important, that’s why the Devil is so intent on causing division. So today, I want us to think about one person that we are having an issue with. Is there someone who has hurt us? Is there someone who has walked out of our lives or maybe we have walked out of theirs? As you come forward to receive Jesus in the Eucharist today, call to mind that person. Don’t have a hidden agenda. Simply ask the Lord to bless them and to love them. That’s the only way we can work to rebuild a sense of unity in the Church and with those in our lives.
A house divided against itself cannot stand. May we today be instruments of unity and sow the seeds of love and compassion in the lives of others.