August 14, 2022; LK 12:49-53; 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Summer is coming to an end. Soon Autumn will be here with Thanksgiving and Christmas to follow. Then, you can be sure that a variety of media outlets will be reporting that some families are fearful of gathering together for holiday meals. Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner which used to be about discussing grandchildren, the Browns, and turkey has now become a place of debate over political agendas, candidates, and what is good or not good for America. I even know of some families who have decided that they cannot gather for the holidays. It is simply too divisive.
Such angry division seems contrary to the Gospel. After all, God calls us to live in harmony and peace. Yet in today’s Gospel, Jesus tells us that harmony is not the whole picture. He tells his disciples that he has come not to establish peace but division. Why would Jesus say this? He says this because he knows the road to peace is not always straight. The way to peace often passes through division. This does not mean that we should try to upset people or make them angry. But it does mean that our chief priority cannot be keeping people happy. Our priority must be to speak the things that Jesus wants us to speak and live the way that Jesus wants us to live. That at times involves speaking out what we think is right.
Thousands of marriages will end this year because the partners in those marriages could not find a way to speak honestly what they felt or what they needed from one another. They were afraid of causing an argument. Jesus says, if this is the peace you establish, division is better. Some people refuse to speak out when they see someone being bullied at school or mistreated in the workplace. They do not want people to become upset. Jesus says, if this is the result of your silence, division is better. So many of us are afraid to bring up any political topic because if we point out what we see as dishonesty or selfishness, others will become angry and emotional. Jesus says if your silence allows dishonesty and selfishness to continue, division is better.
When we speak out, we must let Christ guide us. This involves two things. Our facts must be right, and our hearts must be right. When we speak, we should make sure that our facts are accurate because our media is filled with half-truths and exaggerations. The only way that I know to get any handle on the facts is to read more than one news service, because they are all biased. It is only when we feel confident that our facts are right, that we should ask others to listen to us. But not only must our facts be right, our hearts must be as well. We must speak out of love. If the purpose of speaking is to put someone else down or to dump our anger on another person, we do not speak with the authority of Christ.
But here is the good news. If we work to get our facts right and if we speak out of love, God promises to use our words to lead to peace—even if they first cause division.