“Do not think that I have come to bring peace upon the earth. I have come to bring not peace but the sword” (Mt 10:34).
Words to live by from the King of Peace. The reality of this statement is the reality of his mission. Jesus entered the lives of individuals. Some said yes to following him and some said no; some saying yes and no within the same family. The image of the sword represents how sharp and stark this choice could cut. If you do not think that is true, just look at the polarization in our country right now. The cut between democrat and republican bleeds quite deep.
During the time of Jesus and for most within the first generation of believers, there was not a luke-warm choice. You were either for Jesus or against Jesus. Unfortunately, today, the Gospel is being shaped more by politics than the Gospel shaping politics. To live as disciples of Jesus and to actively engage in living out the teachings of the Gospel it is more important that we follow Jesus, putting him first before any politician or political party. The platforms of democrats, independents, libertarians, and republicans are all deficient in following the teachings of Jesus.
We, who have chosen to follow Jesus, need to speak truth to the issues and hold leaders accountable on all sides. Our starting point for any issue needs to be respecting, first and foremost, the dignity of the person from the moment of conception and everywhere in between until natural death as well as promoting a healthy stewardship of God’s creation. In that dialogue, dialogue, not monologue, we need to respect those we share our views with and be willing to also listen. We can and will disagree, but we need to resist demonizing one another.
In the first reading from Isaiah today (Isaiah 1:15-17), I felt God was speaking to us directly as a country: “Though you pray the more, I will not listen. Your hands are full of blood! Wash yourselves clean! Put away your misdeeds from before my eyes; cease doing evil; learn to do good. Make justice your aim: redress the wronged, hear the orphan’s plea, defend the widow.”
There are those who promote a right to choose taking the life of their own unborn, there are those who support taking children away from parents because they are seeking asylum and weeks and months later still not returning them, and those refusing to welcome the refugee and the migrant fleeing from dire situations. There are those who say we can’t pray in our schools, while others say we can’t take a knee to protest the disproportionate unjust killings of people of color by our law enforcement agencies. Mass murders, including the death of students in our schools as well as the daily violence in our cities abound. The addiction rate of our youth has reached epidemic proportions with little concrete help and support, while equal access to education, jobs, and health care is woefully unbalanced.
These issues are complex and there is no silver bullet that will solve them. When Jesus said, “I have come to bring not peace but the sword” (Mt 10:34), he meant that we are not to settle for a false peace of appeasement to get along and water down the Gospel message. We must wield his sword, which is the Word of God, that speaks truth to power. When seeking to counteract a culture of death to build a culture of life, we must resist making political party affiliations and leaders into our idols, we must resist the urge to give in to our fears and prejudices such that we demonize each other. Instead may we recognize that there is a need to promote a consistent ethic of life, and in any policy dialogue or discussion prioritize the dignity of each person involved.
Let us not contribute to division and polarization nor despair but be people of hope, mercy, and love. May we take up the sword of the Word of God by immersing ourselves in the teachings of Jesus, apply them to our lives, pray for all of our leaders, for one another, and invite the Holy Spirit to give us the words to speak, the ears to hear and the actions to engage in, regarding how we can recognize that the kingdom of heaven is at hand and strive to make it a reality in our world today. Jesus, may your love make us what you have called us to be.
Photo: Sunrise at St Peter Catholic Church. As the sun rises may the Son of God rise in our hearts.
Link for the Mass readings for Monday, July 16, 2018: