Aug. 14, 2022
20th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Jeremiah 38: 4-6, 8-10
Hebrews 12: 1-4
Luke 12: 49-53
“Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.” This is a rather difficult saying of Jesus in light of what we usually think about him. He is the Prince of Peace. He prayed, “I pray not only for them but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me.” (John 17-20-21) These phrases seem contradictory. Let us remember that the Gospel means good news, so when Jesus said, “Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division,” it is good news for us.
Let me tell you when I was growing up back in Pamplona, Colombia, I grew up in my grandparents’ home. I grew up with my mom, siblings, grandparents, aunts and cousins in the same house. It was great. Yes, sometimes we had our arguments and fights, but it was wonderful to live together.
So, when this Gospel was read, it was very confusing to me when I heard Jesus say “From now on a household of five will be divided, three against two and two against three; a father will be divided against his son and a son against his father, a mother against her daughter and a daughter against her mother, a mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.” I love my family and I didn’t want us to be divided.
However, when the Lord called me to be a priest and enter seminary right after high school, this Gospel passage became a source of consolation for me. When I discerned that the Lord was calling me, I talked to my mom and other family members about wanting to enter the seminary. My mom supported me but she told me that she didn’t want me to be a priest. My other family members were divided — some were very happy and others not so much. My father tried to discourage me from entering seminary, saying that he would pay for college and put the huge farm and land that he owned in my name. Seeing their lack of enthusiasm for my vocation was hard to experience, but again, this Gospel was a consolation because as I saw how my family was divided about my vocation, I knew that Jesus understood my pain. It gave me the courage to go to seminary and recognize that the Lord had a bigger plan for me. Now everyone is so happy that I am a priest because I am a happy priest.
I imagine how thankful the first Christians were to hear this Gospel passage when they literally experienced the division of their family; some decided to follow Jesus, and their relatives stayed practicing the Jewish or pagan religions. It is not easy when you love our Lord and you see that your loved ones do not love Jesus or are on a very dark path. I met a young man who has a twin. Growing up and until freshman year of college, they were inseparable — until his twin brother started to fall into addiction to alcohol and heroin. The young man that I met told me that he was going down the same path as his brother because he felt that he needed to be next to his twin, but he said to me that by the grace of God, he made the hard decision to leave his brother because he was dragging him into a life he didn’t want for himself. He prayed for a few years for his brother, who ultimately ended up in jail. He visited his brother every week, and he called me a few weeks ago letting me know that his brother is taking rehabilitation very seriously, is praying every day and talking with the priest chaplain who comes to the jail often. He told me that his brother was thankful that he did not follow him on the wrong path. His brother admitted that he felt angry with him at first, but now he is very encouraged by him to continue on God’s path.
For me, it is hard to see how divided we are as people and a nation; however, we understand that when we preach and live out the truth of the Gospel, we will see some division — people who do not agree with us, and those who do not want to be challenged by Jesus’ teachings. However, we cannot compromise. “Peace will not be obtained at any cost, especially at the cost of compromising God’s word,” said St Jerome.
Let us pray to God to give us his graces for us to be faithful to him.