Homily by Fr. Paul Plante
20th Sunday in Ordinary Time
August 18, 2013
Scriptural Reference: Luke 12:49-53
If you are someone who reads the Scriptures of the upcoming week-end, ahead of time, I wonder what direction you think I might take in the homily when the readings are like today’s.
From the Old Testament, Jeremiah’s enemies wanting to get rid of the prophet, throwing him into a cistern, or deep pit meant to collect rain water, to let him die there. Others having pity on him and pulling him out of the cistern.
There is cause for reflection. Even the one who speaks on behalf of God has both friends and enemies.
But it’s the Gospel that can seem quite a surprise. Jesus speaking as if he is contradicting his basic teaching. Jesus who is the messenger of peace on this earth is telling us that he has not come to bring peace but division (conflict). Jesus who wants all of us to be one as he is one with his Father is talking about division. It does not seem to flow logically from the rest of the message.
And then, he even elaborates as he goes on to say that a household of five will be divided two against three and three against two. A father against a son, a son against his father, a mother against her daughter, a daughter against her mother and so on.
What is Jesus telling us? I think Jesus is not at all denying the ideal of the peace he wants us to have among ourselves, but also knows what the human reality will be. Just as the prophet Jeremiah was speaking the truth in God’s name and stirred up negative reactions, so too, Jesus is the truth among us that will attract both followers and detractors. And as we bring his teaching into our lives, specifically into our modern world, there will be people who will find life in his teachings and others who will see his teachings as a threat to their thinking and behavior and want to destroy any trace of it.
When people take sides for or against the truth that Jesus proclaims, there is inevitable division. There are more examples than I could list. We have experienced that division and the pain that comes with it in so many ways - in the celebration of our liturgy; some to this day who cannot accept that Mass be said in any language except Latin; in the issues of premarital cohabitation; the ordination of women; same-sex marriage; priestly celibacy; divorce and remarriage, etc.; in issues some can live with, that others cannot.
My prayer of course is that even with issues that can divide, we can all find a way to still be loving and maintain a level of peace and harmony.
I am sure Jesus continues to love and feel at peace even with those who go against his teachings. I want it to be my attitude – if there is division, even aggression, it will be one-sided. Even disliked or hated may we refuse to hate in return.