Divide and Conquer – Joel Liwanag, SJ

Mark 3:20-35, Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Niccolò Machiavelli, in Book VI of The Art of War, presents one of the most effective strategies in warfare. His advice: divide and conquer. If you are a military leader who wants to attack your enemy, then begin by sowing division. Find a way for your opponents to fight among themselves – for their leader to become suspicious of his subjects, for the subjects to lose trust in their leader, for the different factions within the group to go against one another. In this way, you weaken your enemy from within, making it easier for you to beat them when you attack. Divide and conquer. The key to winning in war is sowing division.
My dear brothers and sisters, in today’s Gospel, Jesus himself recognises the peril of division when he says, “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.” Indeed, division weakens us; division makes it difficult for us to stand; division leads to our defeat. It is for this reason that division is a favorite go-to strategy of the evil spirit. The devil knows that in attacking us, sowing division is the first step.
In today’s first reading we hear about what happens at the Garden of Eden after the fall, after our first parents disobeyed God. We all know, of course, that before this there was deep union between them and God. It was paradise. They enjoyed oneness with God. But what happened? The serpent came and tricked the woman, planting a seed of division, planting a desire that would destroy this union with God. And this seed of division grew. Later, the man, too, would disobey God. In the passage we heard today, we get a glimpse of the destruction of paradise when Adam admits to God, “I heard you in the garden; but I was afraid, because I was naked, so I hid myself.” Remember, before the fall, it didn’t matter that they were naked. The last verse of Genesis Chapter 2 says, “The man and his wife were both naked, yet they felt no shame.” Now, after the fall, they were afraid; they were ashamed; they hid themselves from God. The devil sowed division, and he succeeded.
My dear friends, since that first “success,” the devil has not stopped working. He continues his work of sowing division even until today. it is good for us to examine our lives and ask ourselves, “How does the evil one continue his work of division in my life? How does he continue to destroy what God had intended through the seeds of division that he sows?”
Let us examine, first of all, the devil’s work of division in the level of the community. Let us take our country for instance. I am really saddened by the fact that we are at a time when there is so much division. I browse through my Facebook feed and I see how divided we are as a nation: DDS vs. Dilawans, Dutertards vs. Yellowtards, Team Kris vs. Team Mocha. Is this truly who we are, or is this the devil using his favorite strategy of divide and conquer? It is sad. The division is sad. The devil’s seeming success is sad.
You all know, however, that division is not only found in the level of the big community. Even in the most basic community, the family, which is supposed to be the epitome of unity, division is sometimes present. How many families, for instance, are destroyed because of money? How many siblings quarrel because of inheritance? How many would sue each other in court because of land? Indeed, division in the family is a reality, and it is sad.
Jesus himself knew this. In today’s Gospel, we get a glimpse of division in his own family. We are told, for instance, that his relatives do not understand him and the work that he’s doing. They say, “He is out of his mind.” This leads Jesus to ask, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And answering himself, he says, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.” Jesus knows that blood is not a guarantee of unity. Families can be divided. In the end, only obedience to the will of God can guarantee our unity.
Aside from the level of the community and the family, however, it is also good to examine the ways through which the devil sows division within us as individuals. Isn’t this one of the devil’s most well-known ways of luring us into evil, by sowing division within? How many of us here, for instance, live double lives, or triple lives, or quadruple lives? We go to church, we pray, we follow the law, and yet we find ourselves being unkind, dishonest, lacking in compassion. The devil knows that division is the key to luring us, and he takes advantage of this. He tells us, “It’s okay. No one sees it. No one would know.” But we know, and this divides us. There is a division between the face that we show and the face that we keep hidden from others. The deeper the division, the more trapped we become. “It’s okay. No one sees it. No one knows.” And we go on with our divided lives, doing what God wants, and alongside it, doing what the devils wants.
My dear brothers and sisters, in the midst of these divisions that the devil sows within our communities, within our families, within our very selves, let us not forget Jesus’ emphasis on the will of God. In the end, God is our most stable source of unity, and obeying his will is our best bet to countering the devil’s work. When we unite our communities with God, when we unite our families with God, when we unite our lives with God, the devil quivers in fear. Let us go therefore and beat him in his game, with God at our side.
 *image from the Internet

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