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Cross-checking the Good News

With Lent coming fast around the corner I thought this little quote was quite timely.  I’m trying to get back on track with my Bible and Catechism reading after some family events and a bout of illness, so expect these to come more frequently.  The quote I’m going to look at but briefly today comes from Matthew 10:34-39, where we find Jesus saying:

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.  For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s foes will be those of his own household.  He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and he who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.  He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it.”

Goodness.  Far from the meek, humble and peaceful Jesus we think of, particularly when considered in the light of the Beatitudes.  Let us not forget, however, that in Luke’s Gospel  the Beatitudes are also followed quickly by the Woes (“woe to you that are rich…woe to you that are full now”, etc.).  Jesus just isn’t as simple as we’d like to make him out to be.  With Lent coming fast, now is a good time for us to check our understanding of who Jesus is and what He asks of us.

First He says he has not come to bring peace, but a sword (Mt 10:34); that certainly sounds dark, but let us take a trip back in Jewish history for a moment to another time when a sword played a prominent part, back to the story of Solomon’s wisdom, to the story we have come to know as Solomon’s cutting the baby in half.  For brevity, the story can be found in 1 Kings 3:16-28 – read it and come back.  What did Solomon use as an implement to divine the truth?  Not finely honed reason, not a well-crafted theological exegesis of the Bible, but a sword.  The one willing to do the right thing in the presence of imminent danger was found to hold the truth in this story, and so we must always be reminded that we too are always in some form of imminent danger of being judged by the Judge.  What shall we say, what shall we do?  Jesus calls us to the truth, and calls Himself the Truth – do we now take cover in a lie and hope no one will notice?  The sword of Justice is at the ready – which do we choose?  “I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live” (Deuteronomy 30:19).

As if that wasn’t enough, Jesus goes on to tell us that even members of our own household will stand against us.  This is very clear to those who are converts, who so frequently lose contact with their family and friends for their decision; it was even more true in the early Church when those who chose to follow Christ were all too often turned in to the Roman authorities during persecutions by members of their own families.  But, for my money, the real doozy comes next.

He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” (Mt 10:37).  As a father (and, obviously, a son) this at first seemed to be an insurmountable obstacle.  I must love Jesus more than my own flesh and blood, more than my parents, more than my children?  In a word, yes.  But it is not a calling to love our family members any less, but rather to love them differently.  We are not to love them just because they are our parents or children, but first because they are children of God, worthy of the Blood of Christ and then in a special way due to our familial connection.  It is not a lowering of their dignity to reframe our relationship in this way, but rather a raising of it.  No matter who I am in this world, no one due to their relationship to me can ever have a dignity even approaching that given them as a child of God.  “Jesus first, everyone else second, myself last”.

I have more thoughts on this excerpt, but for now that will have to suffice.  Any additional thoughts would be most appreciated.

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