Jer 38: 4-6, 8-10; Heb 12: 1-4; Lk 12: 49-53
Dear friends! I want you to reflect with me on this verse of the Gospel: “Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.” Why on earth would Jesus say that he came not to bring peace but division?
A young teenage man was going into his third year at college. His grades were wonderful, he was charming, and popular, and successful. Everyone expected he would do important things in life. His father was a medical doctor and from the day this eldest son was born he assumed that the boy would follow him into his profession. But he told his parents the he wanted to be a priest. In fact, he was going to the seminary in September. There was a moment of dead silence in the family. Then the father said that no son of his was going to become a priest. He had no respect for priests. If his son wanted to be a priest, then he would no longer be his son. Then the father stormed out of the room and left everyone in silence. You have ruined our family, his mother told him. Are you gay, said one of his brothers. You never did like girls, his sister added.
This type of family quarrels was present in the life of St. Francis de Sales as well. Francis was destined by his father to be a lawyer so that the young man could eventually take his elder’s place as a senator from the province of Savoy in France. For this reason Francis was sent to Padua to study law. After receiving his doctorate, he returned home and, in due time, told his parents he wished to enter the priesthood. His father strongly opposed Francis in this, and only after much patient persuasiveness on the part of the gentle Francis did his father finally consent.
No one wants or likes division in our families. We would all prefer unity but when some people have found Jesus and are changed, they can no longer live as they used to. Others who have not yet found Jesus do not understand and ridicule and insult those who have. There is pain involved in division, the one who has found Jesus is changed and no longer follows the status quo and may be ridiculed. This could happen in any family. It is happening in schools all over the country, students mocking other students because they go to Mass.
A Hispanic girl told me last year how she literally walked away from her boyfriend because of her Catholic faith. Lack of faith and trust in God and his church often leads a family to divorce. And divorce is often held responsible for the difficulties of millions of children. Divorce and unwed motherhood are being blamed for children’s school troubles, delinquency, and drug abuse, as well as a renewed cycle of teenage pregnancy and family collapse. You will not find most of these things in any family that lives out their faith.
Jesus himself suffered because of the division concerning him. It cost Jesus his very life to bring about the kingdom of God. That was the baptism he had to undergo in today’s Gospel (Luke 12:50). In the first reading it also cost Jeremiah the prophet. He was thrown into the well (Jer 38:4-6). When young people go to Mass now, it costs them, the mockery of their peers.
This is the message of today’s readings. It’s a message that is as important today as it was in the time of Jesus. The Christian’s commitment to Jesus and the Father must take priority over everything else. Jesus calls us to live for Him. He calls us to a life of loyalty, a life of commitment, a life that is lived on the cutting edge of society. He calls us to live with conviction, to a life in faith. He calls us to live with courage, to draw on His strength and he calls us to be tested. He calls us to make a stand, to live by our convictions even when those convictions might bring separation, or pain into our lives. For we know that Jesus is truly the way, the truth and the life for us.
Therefore our prayers must be: Lord, give us the courage to follow you, even though it causes us to struggle. Give us the courage to follow you, even though it causes us to be persecuted, as Jeremiah was in today’s first reading. Give us the courage to follow you, even though, sometimes, it sets us in opposition to our family, as Jesus warns in today’s gospel.