Wednesday, 25 June 2014

The Party Spirit

The "party spirit" has nothing to do with balloons or cake.

Few Catholics understand what the “party spirit” is and how it comes about. Factions have been within the Church since day one. St. Paul refers to such in 1 Corinthians 1:10-17,  in Roman 12: 9-21 and Romans 14: 1-12.

St. Paul tells us that the party spirit is a spirit, or demon, of division. Divisiveness is never from God within the Church. Divisiveness is not the same as criticism, which should include positive solutions to problems.

For example, one may criticize a catechetical program in a church, but not offer to find alternatives which may be better or teach. Those who judge and criticize merely to stir up trouble build the doorway for the party spirit.

Divisiveness usually means three things. Firstly, that a lack of charity and forbearance has crept into a parish or a group. This lack of charity comes from concentrating on people’s sins and failings, rather than encouraging their good points.

Secondly, egotism, which rears its hydra head, creates division. Egotism must be heard, seen and is in everybody’s face. Egotism is not humble ever and defends itself constantly.

Thirdly, the seeking for power creates a party spirit. To the extreme, this seeking of power creates entirely new churches, such as the four churches found in the 1960s on one corner in my home town, all split-offs from the other. Division caused confusion, anger, even hatred.

In 2 Timothy 3:1-5, St. Paul tells us where the party spirit comes from.

“But understand this, that in the last days, there will come times of stress. For men will be lovers of self, love of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, inhuman, implacable, slanderers, profligates, fierce haters of good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, loves of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding the form of religion but denying the power of it. Avoid such people.”

The last phrase must include the discernment to know when to avoid and when to correct.
Avoiding means not being friends with those who are untrustworthy of the Gospel of the Lord. Avoiding means that if one does not avoid slanderers or the abusive or the arrogant, on becomes like them and loses the gifts of discernment, temperance, and prudence.

We do not have to win every battle and even fight every battle in the Church. Some battles require great holiness and purity of heart. Some require patience and intense prayer and fasting.

How does one avoid strife in groups? St. Paul has the answer, “Put on then, God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness and patience, forbearing one another, and if one has a complaint against another, forgiving one another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all of these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.”Colossians 3:12-15

One must find peace within one’s self in order to spread peace and only those who have found peace, through meekness to God can truly stay away from unnecessary conflicts.

Grieving the Holy Spirit, another one of Paul’s inspirations, comes about when people engage and encourage, wrath, anger, bitterness, clamor, and slander. See Ephesians 4: 25-32 on these points.

If one reads all the epistles, one finds the theme of communal harmony is almost in each one. If St. Paul had to address divisiveness over and over, one can see that it can be a persistent problem.

I cannot refer to all the passages on this theme, but list a few ways to avoid divisiveness in the Church, in our parishes, in our communities, in our families, and so on.

One, look to one’s own sins in humility and truth. If one sees the horribleness of one’s own weaknesses and failings, one cannot judge nor cause dissension by pointing to another’s faults.

Two, think on Christ and not on one’s self. If one is truly in love with Christ, the Bridegroom, one supernaturally wants to love His brothers and sisters and find creative ways to show this love.

Three, forgiveness covers a multitude of sins and failings. To forgive is to forget, which some priests do not teach. I would hope people in my life forgive and forget instead of constantly saying a litany of my faults to me. This concentration on negativity rises from unforgiveness and even hatred. The negative litany destroys community.

Four, egotism must go. The rule of the saints and the great teachers on purity of heart, mind and soul tell us that the ego stands between us and God, between us and His Perfect Will in our lives, between us and the community, between us and eternity. If the ego is not destroyed, we shall not see God after our particular judgment as we have chosen our self-will over Him.

Lastly, egotism and narcissism constantly fall back on talking about one’s self and one’s grievances. As we say here in Iowa, “Get over it, he (or she) is not that into you.” I have discovered that really most people are truly not interested in me, but only in themselves. This should be a freeing experience of grace, enabling one to concentrate on God and not one’s self.

St. Paul wraps up this discussion so poignantly: “I hear that there are divisions among you ; and I partly believe it, for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized.”

The genuine are not those who cause the factions, but the Truth of the Gospel itself causes factions-however, we can teach, preach, instruct, but never judge. “For if we judge ourselves truly, we should not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are chastened, so that we may not be condemned along with the world.”

The genuine are those who allow God to purify them and those who cling to the orthodoxy of the Church in all things.

Let us allow God to chasten us first before we have the audacity to chasten others.


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