“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 right now.
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, for too many, 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 fully 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 a monologue, we need to respect those to whom we share our views and be willing to also listen in turn. In actuality, listening first and more often is a good posture to assume. We can and will disagree, but we need to resist devolving into demonizing one another.
There are those who promote a right to choose, to choose to take the life of their own unborn, there are those who support taking children away from their parents for 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 to discourage people coming into this country. 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 in many rural and urban areas has reached epidemic proportions with little concrete help and support, while equal access to education, jobs, and health care is woefully unbalanced. Some say Black lives matter, while others say all lives matter. Some say wear masks, while others refuse to do so.
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 and we must resist the urge to give in to our fears and prejudices. We must be willing to sit down and speak and listen to one another. We must share and listen to our experiences and our stories.
We must refuse to contribute to the dehumanization and demonization of others, nor are we to allow ourselves to fall into hopelessness, indifference, and/or despair. Instead, we are to be people of hope, mercy, and love in each and every encounter such that we promote a consistent ethic of life. The Word of God is to be the guiding reality in our time and generation and will be so when we immerse ourselves in the teachings of Jesus, apply them to our lives, speak the truth of the Gospel, pray for all of our leaders, for one another, and invite the Holy Spirit to give us the ears to hear, the words to speak, and the actions to engage in. Our starting point for each of the issues before us in our moment and time is to be: “Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me” (Mt 25:40).
In following Jesus in these ways, and putting into practice the words of the Prophet Isaiah by ceasing to do evil, learning to do good, and making justice our aim (cf. Isaiah 1:15-17), we will cause disruption and face conflict but if we remain in the word of Jesus, when we respect each other as human beings, when we really listen to and are present to one another, we will begin to see that we are brothers and sisters, fellow human beings, and we will begin to move toward the reconciliation and healing our country is so desperately in need of.
Photo: Sunrise at St Peter Catholic Church. As the sun rises each day, may Jesus, the Son of God, rise in our hearts to be our guide.