Acts 6:1-7
John 6:16-21


Ah! Conflict! What an opportunity!  So say some of the conflict management people. Today we read of the first signs of conflict in the early Church community.  The widows of Greek background are missing out on the distribution of essential supplies. So, a complaint of what we term today as discrimination is made by the Greek speakers against those of Hebrew background, who are responsible for the distribution.  In a rapidly growing community, it’s unsurprising that differences should arise, but they need to be addressed.

What do the apostles do about it; roll up their sleeves and do it themselves? No, they can’t be deterred from their work of spreading the Gospel and establishing new communities.  Nor can they make ‘martyrs’ of themselves by taking on more than they can chew.  Instead, they appoint a group of trusted individuals to manage the problem.  There are lessons for us here.

In a world of mass relocations, forced migration and asylum-seeking, the offering of hope and practical assistance is to be of Christ.  Whilst those who have the gift of preaching the Word must continue do so, we all need to step up to serve and to share whatever gifts we have in continuing Christ’s mission.

We all have a natural affinity for our own groups.  But the message of Christ is that all around us are our kin.  Sometimes, discrimination isn’t intended but the in group can tend to hang onto its own power and newcomers or the out group are left on the periphery. Paul reminds us in Galatians 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

In loving service, where the seeds of harmony are nurtured by loving communities and allowed to flourish, the weeds of resentment and animosity can’t take hold.  Conflict, handled carefully, can provide opportunities for new life and growth.  Genuine listening, walking in the shoes of the other, forgiving our trespassers, seeking their forgiveness and finding opportunities to make things right will make the Lord to feel that what he did for us it was all worth it.

Brian Norman has been associated with the Passionists in various ways since he was three weeks old when he squared off with Fr Placid Millay CP over the baptismal font at St Brigid’s, Marrickville.