JESUS THE DIVIDER!
First Reading: Isaiah 1:10-17
Responsorial Psalm: Ps. 49(50):8-9,16-17,21,23
Gospel Reading: Matthew 10:34-11:1
In prophesying the coming of Christ, the prophet Isaiah wrote: “For a child has been born for us, a son given to us, authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:5). As such, one of the popular titles of Christ became “Prince of Peace.” Little wonder when the angel announced the birth of Jesus, the host of heaven appeared and praised God in these familiar words: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, to men of goodwill” (cf. Luke 2:14). Also, in the pages of the New Testament, Christ is identified with the greetings of peace. Nevertheless, in today’s gospel, we hear a seeming contradiction and a thought-provoking statement from him. Here, the Prince of Peace declares that he has not come to bring peace, but rather, a sword – division. This division extends into the most intimate of relationships: the family. If we find these words difficult and harsh, we are not alone. Jesus’ original audience (the Jews) would also have been disturbed by them. Therefore, how do we understand this project of Christ?
In order to understand these passionate and disturbing words of Jesus, we must refrain from extremes; put differently, we must not take it too literally. We ought to understand the context at which he made those statements; that is, understand its allegorical, anagogical and moral sense. Let’s examine the statement of Christ: “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth: it is not peace I have come to bring, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. A man’s enemies will be those of his own household.” Here, the imagery of “sword”, in this text does not imply bloodshed. It is a reference to the fact that the word of God is “sharper than any double-edged sword”; it “penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” as illustrated in Hebrews 4:12. Therefore, God’s truth is a sword which divides truth from falsity, right from wrong, good from evil, and much else. It confronts us and requires us to make decisions. The way we make such decisions can divide us. Similarly, the prophet Isaiah in the first reading does not fail to speak the Truth when he noticed a moral decadence in his time. Part of what God asked him to say was: “Take your wrong-doing out of my sight. Cease to do evil. Learn to do good, search for justice, help the oppressed, be just to the orphan, plead for the widow.” The truth was so apt and direct!
The reality of our world shows that many people are afraid of speaking the truth, and of course, listening to the truth, because speaking the truth often goes with a consequence; it costs a lot, even one’s very life. According to St. Augustine: “People hate the truth for what it stands for; they love the truth when it shines warmly on them, and hate it when it rebukes them.” The Truth (Jesus) will cause a division, and it will cause you to be persecuted and hated for Christ’s sake; it will cause you to be despised, ostracized, ridiculed, hurt, betrayed, and even killed, by the same people claiming to be your brothers and sisters in Christ. Unfortunately, not many people are willing to live, stand, and die for what they know and believe is the truth. What brings division in the family? It is Truth! Truth causes division! For instance, if a member of a non-Christian family happens to get converted to the Christian faith, there is a great possibility of rejection by the other members of the family; they might think he is getting out of his mind, and the family is divided because of this. Truth causes division! A daughter who is pregnant wants to have an abortion. But her mother knows the truth. The truth is that there is another person in the womb. No matter how small — a person is a person! So the mother tries her best to save the child and the daughter tries her best to get an abortion. In the process, the two are divided (mother against daughter), which brings the entire family to be divided as well. Again, Truth causes division! A father asks his son to refrain from his evil ways because he means the best for his son. The son doesn’t see the truth in his father’s advice, and as a result of that, they’re divided — father against son! The list is endless.
Dear friends in Christ, do you stand by the truth even at the expense of losing your job, position, friends, or your loved ones? We are called to persevere in the Truth, even in the midst of division. Hence, our eyes should be fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of our faith, who endured the Cross and its shame. Let today’s message be our point of reference throughout the course of this week; and may the good Lord grant us the grace of standing by and for the Truth, even if it would entail “standing alone.” Amen!
© Fr. Chinaka Justin Mbaeri, OSJ
Paroquia Nossa Senhora de Fatima, Vila Sabrina, São Paulo, Brazil
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