Sometimes Jesus says things that leave us quite puzzled, like when he said, "Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple.” Lk. 14:26 – or in today’s gospel, “Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division!” Lk 12:51. What are we to make of these kinds of pronouncements?
Well in this instance in today’s gospel Jesus is actually quoting directly from the prophet Micah and appropriating the prophet’s words to himself. The prophet Micah is giving a scathing rebuke to the leaders of his time, for their failure to lead God’s people properly; for preferring to listen to prophets who spoke falsely, saying what the leaders wanted to hear. The prophet Micah is prophesying that God is going to send a Messiah who will shake things up and bring God’s will to order among the people. And when he does this it will cause divisions right down to individual households.
Micah says, “… for the son treats the father with contempt, the daughter rises up against her mother, the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; your enemies are members of your own household.” Micah 7:6
“But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah, who are one of the little clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days.” Micah 5:2
Jesus is confirming that he is that messiah whom the prophet is foretelling God is sending. And as the prophet warned he is bring a cleaning fire upon the people. When God speaks it is not to say things people would like to hear rather it is to say what people need to hear, whether they like it or not. Because of this God’s word can and does divide between those who are willing to listen and accept God’s word and those who are rebelling.
Our generation is no exception, we are witnessing much disorder in our society and rejection of God’s truth as it has been revealed through the gospel – so we are not surprised to see divisions, even in the household of the Church. Hear again these words of Jesus,
"I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed!”
We must not be scandalized by the struggles we are witnessing today, rather we need wise and careful discernment. What is God’s word to us today, who is speaking the truth for us to hear? Let us not forget that the Lord promised ever to remain with his Church, leading, guiding and protecting it. Our confidence comes through this promise.
The Holy Spirit remains in the Church and will guide us through these days of confusion and uncertainty. The worst response one could make would be to leave the Church and the practice of the faith. The Holy Spirit has not abandoned the Church, he is here to guide us to hear and understand Jesus’ living word to the Church today – and by it to guide on lives through uncertain times.