Jesus’ statement in the Gospel that He has come to bring not peace, but division always raises eyebrows. After all, it seems to contradict so much of what Jesus said elsewhere in the Gospel.
At the Last Supper, for example, Jesus told His disciples that He was giving them peace, a peace that the world could not give, a peace that no one could take away from them. We call Jesus the Prince of Peace. In the Beatitudes we read, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God.” In the letter to the Ephesians, Jesus is called our peace, breaking down the walls that divide peoples.
Sadly, that comment about bringing division instead of peace is one that cynics of religion would certainly agree with. Religion has been a major source of division in our world the last couple of decades. We have only to look at the Middle East (Jews and Muslims), the former Yugoslavia (Catholics, Orthodox and Muslims), India (Hindus and Muslims and Christians) and Northern Ireland (Catholics and Protestants).
Even within the Catholic Church and other major religions there is division centered around the three “biggies”: authority, liturgy and human sexuality. In the First Reading, Jeremiah is dumped into a cistern by his own people, who did not like the message from God he was bringing. As it was in beginning, is now, and probably always will be.
It seems to me that a misplaced loyalty is at the root of many of these divisions. Folks are loyal to a certain way of doing things, to an ideology, to a political party (yes, there are political parties in churches) and so on. But think this through for a second: what if one’s primary loyalty were to Jesus? Would that bring peace?
Love deeply, laugh often, pray faithfully!
Fr. Herb, C.S.C.