Home Catechetical Corner Take personal responsibility for society’s polarization, fissures

Take personal responsibility for society’s polarization, fissures

Father Joseph Cocucci
Father Joseph Cocucci


The definition of the word “fracture” is “the cracking or breaking of a hard object or material.” You can fracture a bone; you can fracture a marble statue; you can fracture a glass window. You can’t fracture a pile of gelatin or a handful of flour. For something to be fractured, it has to previously have been hardened.

When something is fractured into several pieces, it’s clear by definition that the pieces originally belonged together but are now apart and consequently the object as a whole no longer functions the way it was meant to function.

You and I are fractured beings, living in a fractured society, which exists in a fractured world. That’s nothing to be proud of and it’s nothing to be taken lightly. We were created in the image and likeness of God. We were given the Garden of Eden. We were meant to live forever in friendship with our creator, who loved us so much that he breathed his own breath into clay in order to bring us to life. But by obeying the serpent instead of the creator, mankind shifted its allegiance and squandered its inheritance. Thus sin entered the world, and, with sin, death. And hatred. And war. And politics.

And so we live in a culture where principalities and powers– spirits allied with that serpent – work overtime to pit men against women, blacks against whites, liberals against conservatives, Republicans against Democrats, and the list goes on. And we cave into it, we allow ourselves to be fooled into thinking that those who think differently or look different are evil, because we fail to recognize that the one who inspires all this downright hatred is the one being in the cosmos who hates human beings the most: the one who in a pique of jealousy refused to worship the God-Man Jesus Christ and who was subsequently cast out from heaven and lost his name as the one who carries light. He who was once Lucifer – light bearer – is now Satan – the accuser. We call him the devil, Diablo, which comes from the Greek words δια (dia) and βάλλειν (ballein) and means to throw something across, or to scatter. That’s what happens when you fracture something: you break it into smaller pieces that scatter.

In the time and culture of Jesus, this was most evident in the division of people into Jews and Gentiles. The Jews worshipped the one true God. Everyone else worshipped a false god, didn’t believe in any god at all (atheists) or believed something was out there but didn’t think we could ever know anything about it (agnostics). These were lumped together in the Jewish mind as “Gentiles.” A Gentile was anyone who was not a Jew.

The structure of the Temple in Jerusalem recognized this division. Separated from the Holy of Holies, the Altar and the prayer spaces by a wall, and lower than the rest of the Temple, were two areas known as the Courts of the Gentiles. Here, non-Jews who might be interested in Judaism could enter the Temple (sort of) but not be close to any of the holy things that were inside. On the walls that separated them from the holy section were notices that read “No gentile may enter within the balustrade around the sanctuary and the enclosure. Whoever is caught, on himself shall he put blame for the death that will ensue.”

This wall is what St. Paul is referring to in today’s second reading. He writes “In Christ Jesus you who once were far off have become near by the blood of Christ.” In other words, you who couldn’t get in to the holy area – you were far off – now you can, because of Jesus. He makes it more clear in the next sentence: “He is our peace, He Who made both one and broke down the dividing wall of enmity, through his flesh.” He doesn’t bring peace – He IS peace. He makes two one: Jew and Gentile. He broke down the dividing wall of enmity: that wall that said if you’re not a Jew you can’t come any closer.

In Jesus Christ, Paul will write famously in his letter to the Galatians, “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” And what have we done with that? We’ve allowed our political leaders to set us against each other. Now the blame doesn’t lie entirely with them – we’ve done our share. I’m talking about corporate sin and personal sin, not one or the other. For our part, we’ve given our ideologies such a privileged place in our hearts that both sides have begun to see each other as evil instead of different, that a good deed cannot be acknowledged if my opponent does it and a bad deed cannot be admitted if my ally does it. For all practical purposes, we have abandoned the unity that Christ bought for us at so great a price: the torturing of His flesh, the shedding of His blood.

As members of the Body of Christ, maybe this is a good point in our life as a community to consider what acts of reparation we can make to Christ for participating in the fracturing of His Body. The normal means, I suppose, are good. Confession. Mass. Prayer. Visits to the Blessed Sacrament. But without a firm intention to stop participating in the divisiveness, we’d be no better than the Pharisees. Let’s make it our intention today – here and now – to engage in unity, to foster unity, to nourish unity; to stop the gossip, to stop the hating, to stop the endless criticisms. Let’s pray in thanksgiving to Jesus Christ for breaking down the dividing wall of enmity, and let’s fight like heck – even in our own hearts – to keep that wall from going up again.

Father Cocucci is pastor of St. John Neumann parish in Berlin, Md.