Meditation On Sunday's Gospel
At Christmas time, we hear hymns quoting Isaiah 9:6 - For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. The most famous rendering of coarse is Handel’s Messiah.
So how do we reconcile Prince of Peace with the words of Jesus in today's gospel?
“Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! From now on five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided."
The key here to understanding is in Jesus’ words, “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!" – His passion and death on the cross.
Some think of peace as everyone getting along. For us Canadians it is our boast. We are a peaceful nation, home of many cultures, languages; a model for all to imitate. Unfortunately, today more than ever, we hear that the best way to achieve this peace is by keeping religion out of the conversation. So when Catholic voices speak about, God’s revealed truth, right to life, marriage and family, sexual morality, doctor assisted suicide, they are severely criticized.
The “fire” Jesus says he comes to bring is a cleansing fire, a fire of divine truth to challenge untruth, to engage in battle with the Deceiver, the distorter of God’s truth. His cross is not some unfortunate event caused because he was not careful about what he said, it was directly because of what he said, and those refusing to listen, becoming angered and enraged.
Jesus did not proclaim His message by forcing it upon anyone, it was spoken with compassion and mercy – full of healing and forgiveness; but also proclaimed without compromise. That Baptism Jesus speaks of is his Cross, and it is our same baptism. We are baptized to be evangelists like Jesus, witnesses to God's truth.
So when we live and speak in imitation of Jesus, there will be some who will take offence. I wonder how much the Catholic voice today is hesitating to speak the gospel, feeling compelled to be politically correct, lest someone might be offended?
Our evangelizing is not to be "an in your face" way of speaking. It is not accomplished by passing judgement, rather by confessing one's conviction and witnessing by one's life lived.
A beautiful model of a true evangelist is given by St. Peter:
Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.” But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander, 1 Peter 3:13
Sunday, 14 August 2016
Prince of Peace - Bringer of Fire