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Not Peace but the Sword

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Not Peace but the Sword

20th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C

Marcellino D'Ambrosio, Ph.D.

 

 

World Youth DayOne of the themes of Pope Francis at World Youth Day 2013 was to “shake things up.”

 

This is quite different from the advice I was given as a child: “In polite conversation, never bring up politics or religion.”  This is quite good advice, if your aim is to be well-liked.  Politics and religion are risky because they involve deeply held convictions, and if you happen to tread on the convictions of others, you get the same reaction that a dentist gets when his probe hits a nerve.

 

But politeness at any cost is not God’s style.  The reason for this is that God is love, and love is more concerned about the welfare of others than with one’s own image.  So if someone is on a seemingly pleasant canoe ride down a lazy river, love cares enough to warn the passengers that Niagara Falls is up ahead.  “But everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion.”  Opinions don’t change the fact that going over the falls in a canoe will kill you.

 

Religious and moral choices are like this.  They set one on a course that leads either to a safe harbor or over the falls.  Sex outside of marriage, intoxication with drugs and alcohol, honoring Jesus but rejecting the authority of His Church, all these choices have very unpleasant, even deadly, consequences.

 

Over the FallsSo God sends prophets (the Greek word means “spokesmen”) whose role includes warning people that they are headed over the falls.  You’d think people would be grateful for the heads up.  But often people respond to bad news by killing the messenger.

 

Why is this?  Because the idea that we are basically “good people” whom God ought to appreciate, and that our beliefs and lifestyle are at least as good as all others–these are comforting illusions.  When a prophet calls all this into question, we find it threatening and very uncomfortable.  If the prophet is right, we have to change, and change always means pain, and we don’t like pain.

 

Jeremiah and Jesus both are dealing with people who think that they are “good people.”  After all, they are God’s chosen people.  They offer sacrifices.  God is on their side.   So they respond to Jeremiah’s warnings by eliminating the source of pain.  They throw him into a muddy cistern and he narrowly escapes with his life.  In Luke 4, Jesus the inhabitants of Nazareth want to throw Jesus over the hill.  He eludes them this time, but ultimately gives his life for those who cry out “Crucify him!”

 

So if this is how people are going to respond, why bother?  Why stick your neck out?  Because people have a right to the truth, whether they heed the truth or not.  The prophet’s responsibility is to speak God’s word as clearly and convincingly as possible.  One thing we can be sure about – the reactions to this word will cause tremendous division.  Some will applaud and some will fume.  That’s why Jesus said he came to bring not peace, but a sword.

 

Jeremiah ProphetAt first glance, Jeremiah did not have much “success.”  His listeners totally ignored him, the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem, and Israel was taken into exile.  On Good Friday, it did not look like Jesus had been successful either.  But 300 years later the Romans who crucified him were worshiping him, and the lives that had been forever changed were too numerous to count.

 

We who have been confirmed have been given a share in Christ’s prophetic anointing.  If our goal is to be everybody’s buddy, we are going to have a hard time being faithful.  The word that God commands us to share is sometimes comforting, sometimes disturbing.  We must get over our fear of offending people and love them enough to tell them the truth.  Of course, there is always the question of the right place and time.  But if no place is the right place and the right time never comes, we can be sure that we are allowing fear of other’s opinion to get in the way of love.  Love is not about being sentimental or popular.  It shakes things up and sets the world on fire.

 

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Marcellino D’Ambrosio, aka “Dr. Italy,” writes from Texas. For more of his resources or info on his pilgrimages to Rome and the Holy Land, visit www.crossroadsinitiative.com or call 800.803.0118.

 

This is offered as a reflection on the readings for the 20th Sunday in Ordinary time, year C (Jeremiah 38:4-10; Psalm 40, Hebrews 12:1-4; Luke 12:49-53) and is appears here with permission of the author.    

Early Church Fathers - VOL II
 Fathers of the Early, Early Church Fathers, Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio, EWTN Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio, host of EWTN’s Early Church Fathers TV series, continues to acquaint us with the colorful personalities of the earliest Christian teachers, making their dynamic message accessible, enjoyable, and relevant to the challenges of everyday life. This, the second volume of series, consists of shows produced in 2006 and covering fascinating personalities such as the courageous St. John Chrysostom, the outspoken bible scholar, Jerome, and 17 other heroes of the Early Church.

 


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"I Believe" follows the outline of the Nicene Creed, but don't be mistaken--it is far from a stuffy, academic presentation of the basic beliefs of Roman Catholicism! Full of enlightening metaphors and colorful anecdotes, "I Believe" leads its audience not only to clearer understanding of the articles of faith Roman Catholics profess, but a deeper love relationship with God the Father, Son, and Spirit.


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