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“And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.” (Mk 3:25)

This passage appears in all three of the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke). Abraham Lincoln echoed these words from Scripture on June 16, 1858 to more than 1,000 delegates at the Republican State Convention in Springfield, Illinois. They had just chosen Mr. Lincoln as their candidate for the U.S. Senate, running against Democrat Stephen A. Douglas.

“A house divided against itself cannot stand.” I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free.[1]

Lincoln’s speech was controversial; it cost him the election to Douglas. A little more than two years later, people began to grasp the truth of his words and he was elected to the Presidency of the United States on November 6, 1860.

This past week, our nation elected a new president. The election has uncovered a deep and wide divide in our nation. It has left many feeling sad, angry, and disillusioned. Others are jubilant, hopeful and encouraged. Between these extremes are many that are just fed up with the ugliness of this election. How do we bridge the biggest divide in our country since the Civil War?

“Holy Father, keep them in thy name, which thou hast given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.” (Jn 17:11)

Jesus prayed these words during the Last Supper discourse with His disciples. God’s desire for man is unity but we live in a country and world that is fraught with strife and division. How do we begin to heal the wounds in our country?

And now I beg you…not as though I were writing you a new commandment, but the one we have had from the beginning, that we love one another. (2 Jn 5)

We are helpless to change opposing views through intelligent and thoughtful arguments when hearts are closed to discourse. As Christians, we are commanded by Christ to love one another, especially those who persecute us. Jesus, in His Sermon on the Mount, had much to say on this matter.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you… (Matt 5:43-44)

St. John Paul II, in his Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio, urged families to “become what you are.”[2] He explained that God’s plan for the family is to be an “intimate community of life and love.”[3] Husbands and wives, as the primary educators of their children, need to evangelize their children, inviting them into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Then the family is to evangelize the world around them.[4] We need to invite those with differing views from ours into our homes. We need to ask God to give us eyes to see and hearts to love these individuals as He does. Only love can change a hardened heart through the power of the Holy Spirit working in the lives of these beloved souls.

“By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (Jn 13:35)

Focus on your corner of the world – your family and the people around you– making it a better place for them. That’s how hearts, and lives, will be softened and changed. For our nation to be united, hearts need to be converted by the love of Jesus Christ. Begin in your family and may it be a healing balm to those who are afraid, despondent or angry.

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends…So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. (1 Cor 13:1-8, 13)

Go and love those in most need of God’s mercy.

[1] Abraham Lincoln “House Divided” Speech, Springfield, Illinois, June 16, 1858; http://www.abrahamlincolnonline.org/lincoln/speeches/house.htm (accessed November 10, 2016)

[2] John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio, §17, November 22, 1981; http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/apost_exhortations/documents/hf_jp-ii_exh_19811122_familiaris-consortio_en.html (accessed November 11, 2016)

[3] Ibid., §11.

[4] Ibid.