This Sunday as a community of faith, we continue our walk through Saint Luke’s Gospel. It’s an opportunity for us to re-hear the message of the Lord Jesus and to go deeper in our relationship with him.
In particular, this weekend we hear the Lord say to us: “There is a baptism with which I must be baptized, and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished! Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.”
The teaching might surprise some. Didn’t the Lord come to bring peace? How are we to understand what he is telling us?
Our Christian faith provides the foundation and context for understanding what the Lord Jesus was saying, and how we are called to understand it.
Our faith teaches us that the original sin of our first parents caused humanity’s and creation’s fall from grace. The Fall introduced a break in the peace that previously existed between God and humanity, as well as between our bodies and souls, our fellowship with others, and our communion with the whole of creation.
On account of the Fall, we now fear God as a human family. We invent caricatures of him that falsely show him as angry and seeking vengeance. Rather than seeing him as a loving Father, we turn him into a distant tyrant or a wrathful judge.
Original sin also weakens and wounds our human nature. Our intellects are now clouded, our wills are frail, our memories and imaginations are inconsistent, and our emotions are impulsive. Overall, our souls are now fragile and our bodies corruptible. Our inner peace is disturbed and we find a battle within ourselves for goodness.
We are shocked by our attraction or inclination to darkness, even when we know it is wrong and harmful to us and our true happiness.
Original sin also severed peace in terms of our relationship with our neighbors. In particular, a tension is introduced among spouses in marriage. Nuptial union is supposed to be a place of love, self-donation, and selfless service, but it can now become the seedbed of resentment, anger, and bitterness. Spouses, who are called to reflect the friendship between God and humanity, can quickly become tired and vicious to one another because of selfishness, greed, and a will to power.
As this discord can be found in marriages, so it can spread to families, neighborhoods, work places, circles of friends, and society as a whole. This can escalate and be found even among whole peoples or nations.
A breach of harmony is also found in the human family’s relationship with creation. We approach the world as its master rather than its steward. We can forget our vocation to care for our environment and give attention to our common home. Rather than approaching it with prudence and temperance, we can cause it harm for reasons of profit, domination, irresponsibility, or misplaced leisure.
All of the above was caused by sin and breaks peace.
This context is helpful to us. When we sin, peace is disturbed. Rather than a tranquility of order, disorder is brought into our lives and the world. Sin does not destroy or abolish order; it manipulates, distorts, and perverts order.
For sin to be removed and authentic peace restored, we have to accept God’s grace and be willing to endure division between good and evil, light and darkness. We have to be ready to labor, suffer, and fight for virtue and goodness in ourselves, our relationships, and in our world.
In this way, we can understand that the division the Lord Jesus speaks of is a division that separates what is hurtful from what is healthy, what is righteous from what is fallen.
Peace is a divine gift, but it is a gift that is often threatened by the disorder of sin. For peace to be received and lived, it requires discipline, selflessness, and cooperation with grace. By ourselves, we cannot secure peace, but God knows our fallenness and offered us the power of his grace in Jesus Christ.
The Lord Jesus, therefore, comes to us as the Prince of Peace. Whatever division or suffering is brought about by his work among us, it is a suffering and separation for a greater good and an authentic, lasting peace.
As we re-hear this message, we receive an invitation to remove ourselves from darkness, fight for what is true and beautiful, allow ourselves to receive the light of authentic peace, and to be instruments of that peace in our world today.
Follow Father Jeffrey Kirby on Twitter: @fatherkirby
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