Sunday Sermon for August 18, 2019, the Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary time, Year C
Readings: Jer 38:4-6, 8-10; Heb 12:1-4; Lk 12:49-53
In the Gospel reading today Jesus says something quite startling. The Prince of Peace said: “Do you think I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.” The division Jesus speaks of is about truth and charity. Some people want a false peace, a peace that exists only if we do not bring truth into the equation, if we do not make judgments about what is right and wrong. We are just supposed to be “nice” and allow evil to flourish while saying and doing nothing to counter it.
We need to recognize the fallacy of this kind of thinking. Those who push this kind of thinking often twist the truths of the Faith and then tell us we need to live according to their distortion of the truth. We are expected to conform ourselves to their way of thinking, even when this means tolerating their lies and immorality.
Of course, they play the relativism game and tell us that it is okay for us to do what we are doing, so we need to accept what they are doing. The fact is, they are not willing to listen or accept the truth. It is the truth that brings division. True charity brings unity, but false charity appeases those who do not want the truth. Truth and charity cannot be separated. It is not possible to have charity without truth. One can speak the truth without charity, but that tends to “beat people over the head” with the truth and it pushes people away. So, we need to speak the truth in charity and even more importantly, to live the truth in charity.
One might ask, why would people not want the truth, especially if it is presented to them in charity? We need look no further than the first reading to see how the princes of Jerusalem opposed Jeremiah, claiming that Jeremiah was not interested in the welfare of the people. Yet Jeremiah was telling the people what God instructed him to say, so by rejecting Jeremiah’s message, these princes were really saying that God was not interested in the welfare of the people.
God is truth and God is charity, so the only way God can act is in truth and charity. God Himself said that His ways are not our ways. Since His way is truth and charity, then our ways must be consistent with the truth and lived with charity. If we are not conformed to God’s ways, we will likely reject His ways because we either do not understand or we do not want what He presents to us.
Consider the second reading when St. Paul speaks of Jesus enduring the Cross. What is more, he speaks of the joy that lay before Jesus allowing Him to accept the Cross. Many people, even Christian people do not understand the need to accept the Cross. Even more tragic, they do not want to understand it. For those who want to conform their ways to God, St. Paul instructs us to get rid of sin, persevere in running the race, and keep our eyes fixed on Jesus.
This is not the “nice” Jesus, the “warm and fuzzy” Jesus; nor is it Jesus “my little buddy” of whom St. Paul speaks. Rather, St. Paul directs us to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, even enduring the “shame” of the Cross. He speaks of the opposition Jesus experienced from sinners. This is the Jesus upon whom St. Paul instructs us to fix our eyes. Needless to say, the real Jesus was not politically correct, He was not socially acceptable, He was a cause of division, and He remains a cause of division between those who love Him and those who love sin.
St. Paul tells us Jesus is “the leader and perfecter of faith.” Faith in Jesus is going to bring peace to our souls. It will bring a unity of mind and will, that is, of truth and love. More than that, true faith in Jesus will bring unity with all those who share this faith. This is what we see in the early Christians who were of one mind and soul (Act 4:32). They may not have been in agreement about nonessential things, but they were in complete agreement about morals and doctrine. Not only did they assent to these truths, they lived these truths with charity in their daily lives.
We need to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus so that we will not grow weary or lose heart. Unity with Jesus may bring division with family members, friends, coworkers, and others, but it will bring us interior peace, union with those of like mind and will, love for neighbor, and union with God in the Communion of Saints for eternity.
Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.