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Jesus is LORD & the Great Division of Covenant
Gospel Reflection for Thursday, October 26, 2023
Jesus said to his disciples:
"I have come to set the earth on fire,
and how I wish it were already blazing!
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.
From now on a household of five will be divided,
three against two and two against three;
a father will be divided against his son
and a son against his father,
a mother against her daughter
and a daughter against her mother,
a mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law."
Today’s Gospel stands in sharp contrast to the way Jesus is usually portrayed - “Prince of Peace”, “Lamb of God”, who would not even break a bruised reed, etc. We are used to the gentle Jesus, the “uniter not the divider.” How can we understand this Jesus who is the sword of division. Well, first it is important to understand that Jesus brought a new covenant and a new Church with a new understanding of God, a new Sabbath… a new religion that would be called Christianity. This was symbolized by the tearing in two of the veil of the Temple. The new Church would be given to both Jews who accepted Christ and to Gentiles… but all had to choose, whether to accept Jesus and become Christian or remain as they were, not believing in Him…. and this would and continues to cause much division.
Before I get too deep into this, I think I should explain that I grew up with a lot of Jewish folks. Among them have been some of my best friends. I dated two Jewish girls in college and just after and would have married one, but we could not reconcile our religious beliefs. For her, to marry a Christian would cause great conflict in her family and the religious community she grew up in. Catholics must have the assurance from a non-Catholic spouse that their children will be raised Catholic. That was an extreme scandal for her parents and grandparents. Her mother even asked to “borrow” her Bible and basically threw down by the cat’s litter box. I had always been very accepted by Jewish people before, but marriage was a different circumstance.
I still have immense respect for Judaism and a true love for the Jewish people based on mutual respect. But, I came to understand then, that there are some lines that a religious Jew will refuse to cross as tenants of their faith. The same is true for Christians, Muslims, etc. We can live in brotherhood, but we don’t compromise on our religion and to convert to another religion is a very big deal and a serious matter of conscience. I don’t know if this is true of all Jewish belief, but she explained to me that if she converted to Catholicism, she would be, essentially, erased from the family tree and completely ostracized.
As our Lord made clear in the Gospels and as Saint Paul was so very adamant about, the Jews during Jesus’ earthly ministry and in the early centuries of the Church faced a very hard choice…. and God wasn’t making it easy for them by appearing as the Messiah they expected. The Jews, especially the Holy Apostles, who converted were very brave.
So often had they rejected God and turned to foreign gods and foreign powers for help, rather than trusting in God and relying on Him alone, so often had they rejected and even killed His prophets, that God would no longer show Himself to them plainly. Rather than coming in glory, Jesus appeared as a “sign that would be contradicted.” In order to be saved, they would have to make a determined act of will to believe in Jesus and to follow Him no matter what. They would have to abandon their Jewish traditions and identity. They would no longer be welcome in the synagogues. This was the sword that our Lord promised – to become Christian meant that the Jew would risk being rejected by parents, spouses, children and their community, and even stoned to death like Saint Stephen when he spoke in the synagogues.
Had Jesus come in power, as many expected to be the sign of the Messiah, the Jews would have had no choice but to believe. No conversion of heart would have been necessary. By coming as He did, He gave them a choice, respecting free will. Many believed in Him. Many even among the religious officials believed He was the Messiah because of the signs He showed in fulfilling the prophecies. Yet, they still rejected Him and had Him crucified. How many who hailed Him just days before as the King of the Jews, chanted “Crucify Him” and “We have no king but Cesar.” just days later?
It can be hard for us to understand because, as I often say, we know how the story ends. But, how many Catholics in our era do the same when they refuse to accept Church teaching on abortion, marriage and homosexuality (etc.)? There are many who identify as Catholic and believe in Jesus as God, who will not accept Him as Lord of their lives. They reject His authority and that of His Church. We must wonder, if Jesus appeared today and demanded an end to such evils, how many supposed Catholics would stop their ears and shout, “Crucify Him. We have no king but liberal secularism!”?
Judson Carroll is the author of several books, including his newest, Confirmation, an Autobiography of Faith. It is Available in paperback on Amazon:
His new podcast is The Uncensored Catholic https://www.spreaker.com/show/the-uncensored-catholic