Twentieth Sunday of Ordinary Time-C

“I have come to set the earth on fire”

“Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.” These are disturbing words from Jesus today. Indeed, if this were the totality of the Gospel message, I doubt many of us would be so enthralled to believe. These words today can only be heard in the context of the entirety of the person who speaks them. And yet, still, these words today cannot be disregarded or explained away. We’re left to wrestle with these as much as we can rejoice and comfort in some others.

We have enough violence in the world – without more from our religious beliefs. We have enough division among us – without a convenient excuse from God himself to carry on the grudges.  We could go to countless other sources of division and violence without the Son of God adding to the mix. 

Quite curiously, the same one who came to set the earth on fire, is also hailed as the Prince of Peace. The same one promising division is the one praying in his final hours that “all will be one, as he and the Father are one”. This same one seemingly throwing families and societies in turmoil is the one who labeled even the outcast tax collectors and prostitutes as members of the family of God.

Jesus is indeed the wellspring of peace – though genuine peace and justice include difficulty and struggle in a fallen world. Jesus is the foundation of authentic unity – though the foundation must not overlook some fundamental truths about the God upon which it rests. Jesus is the epitome and the source of authentic charity and love – though this love is not some sugary acceptance of whatever comes.

Truthfully, Jesus’ message is a difficult message which informs all of us that peace comes only through disturbance. Simply, if there were no disturbance there would be peace already, or worse, tyranny. A violent and forceful demand of unity by eliminating the opportunity of a person’s free will and self-determination in lieu of the oppressor’s will.

You know, we all have faced the moments in our lives when the decisions and choices which stand before us strike to the heart of our beliefs and the sense of who we are. Times when we’re sent deep within ourselves – testing all we’ve been taught, all that we’ve known, all that we hope. And frankly, they are disturbing times – as disturbing as the message today.

To all of those parents who speak out on behalf of their children who demand the schools stop teaching immoral practices and lifestyles are quickly  labeled as “domestic terrorists” by their government. When the mask mandates and the CRT was forced upon school children, rightfully people spoke up and challenged the ‘group think’ as harmful to their children and society. Hardly there was any semblance of unity because there can be no unity when one side doesn’t honor or tell the truth.

How many countless nurses and others who were forced to resign or be fired for not taking the COVID vaccinations because they believe they have the God-given right to determine what medication they wish to have put in their bodies.  

And, all of those brave men and women who work tirelessly to defend the unborn are not met with unity but with violence. Their response is not to strike out in violence but continue the work of God in defending the most vulnerable of our world. There can be no unity when one group wants to kill and the other wants to protect life at all stages.

Such disturbing moments, while we certainly don’t long for them, are times when our convictions of life and faith are forced to come to the surface. And with the rise of those convictions of life and faith, a sense of peace does come upon us. In living out our faith-based convictions we become ever more rooted in our Christianity and live actively in the good which brings peace.  

“Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth?” Jesus we now know what you are saying to us, you have offered a way of peace for our hearts while rejecting evil when we encounter it.

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