20 Sunday C #120 2013
Jer 38, 4-6. 8-10
Heb 12, 1-4
Lk 12, 49-53
Deacon Tom Cornell
Peter Maurin Farm
August 18, 2013
“I have come to cast fire upon the earth, and how I wish it were already ablaze! …Do you suppose that I am here to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.” How are we to understand these words? He, the Prince of Peace, also said, “My own peace I give you, a peace the world cannot give.” (Jn 14, 27).
How often does the word “peace” appear in our Mass? When a bishop presides, his first words after the Sign of the Cross are “Peace be with you.” After the penitential rite we sing the Gloria, “Glory to God in the highest and peace to people of goodwill.” At Communion the priest addresses the congregation with the words, “The peace of the Lord be with you always.” The deacon then says, “Let us exchange the sign of peace.” Then we recite, “Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, grant us peace. At the dismissal the deacon says, “Go in peace.”
The fire that Jesus would cast upon the earth is his own word to set ablaze the hearts of believers, those who love God, and God is Mercy, Truth and Goodness and Love, to set them ablaze. That word of justice, peace and love can, and does, divide some times, very painfully, sets fathers against sons and sons against fathers. I know. I couldn’t go home for three years because of my protest against the Viet Nam war. And Jeremiah knew. It was said that he too demoralized the troops. Jeremiah didn’t want to be a prophet. Anyone who does should have his head examined. A prophet speaks the word of God to those who do not want to hear it. That is never convenient. It landed him in a cistern and many others in jail and prison cells, even in our own day and our own country.
Pope Francis’ words on this day in Rome were:
“… Jesus says, ‘I came to bring division’; not that Jesus wishes to divide men against each other. On the contrary, Jesus is our peace, he is our reconciliation! But this peace is not the peace of the grave, it is not neutrality. … This peace is not a compromise at all costs. Following Jesus means rejecting evil, egoism, and choosing the good, truth, justice, even when that requires sacrifice and renunciation of our own interests. And, yes, this divides; we know that it divides us even from the closest bonds. But remember: it is not Jesus who divides! He posits the criterion: living for ourselves or living for God and for others; be served or serve; obey ourselves or obey God. This is the way that Jesus is a ‘sign of contradiction’ ” (Luke2:34) (August 18, 2013, Angelus, Vatican City).
His predecessor had words to say on the subject too:
“ ‘To love your enemies’ (Luke 6:27; Mt 5:44) was something of a manifesto presented to everyone, which Christ asked his disciples to accept, thus proposing to them in radical terms a model for their lives. …Why does Jesus ask us to love our very enemies, that is, ask a love that exceeds human capacities? What is certain is that Christ’s proposal is realistic...This page of the Gospel is rightly considered the Magna Carta of Christian nonviolence; it does not consist in surrendering to evil—as claims a false interpretation of ‘turn the other cheek’ (Luke 6:29)—but in responding to evil with good (Romans 12:17-21), and thus breaking the chain of injustice. It is thus understood that nonviolence, for Christians, is not mere tactical behavior but a person’s way of being, the attitude of one who is convinced of God’s love and power, who is not afraid to confront evil with the weapons of love and truth alone. Loving the enemy is the nucleus of the ‘Christian revolution,’ a revolution not based on strategies of economic, political or media power. God does not oppose violence with a stronger violence. He opposes violence precisely with the contrary: with love to the end, His Cross. This is a way of conquering that seems very slow to us, but it is the true way of overcoming evil, of overcoming violence, and we must trust this divine way of overcoming” (Feb. 19, 2007 Angelus, Vatican City).
How many of us have ever considered our commitment to Christ and his Church a revolutionary act? Well, it is, and we are all subversives, or should be subversives when it comes to unjust social structures that deny people their fundamental rights, that impoverish and keep people in poverty, and war, unjust war. To subvert means, literally in Latin, to turn things over, turn them upside down. That’s what Jesus did when he said, “Blessed are the poor….” How to do it in our time and place? That’s for each one of us to decide for ourselves. But if Christians are indistinguishable from non-believers in their public lives, then what’s the point? W