Prince of Peace, Cause of Division by Rev. Paul Grankauskas
Reprinted with permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"
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Luke writes to explain that
Christ came to save everyone.
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."
In this Gospel text we hear Our Lord say something rather startling and perhaps disturbing. He asks, "Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division." I say it is rather startling because on the night Jesus was born the angels sang, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased." One of Jesus' main titles is "Prince of Peace." If these things are true, then how can He say that He comes to bring division?
Jesus Christ is certainly the Prince of Peace insofar as He came to reconcile sinners with God. He unites fallen man with God once more. But, being His disciples often brings us into conflict with those who are closest to us.
For example, Francis de Sales' desire to be a priest was initially met with resistance from his own father, who was determined his son should be a lawyer. Elizabeth Ann Seton's desire to join the Roman Catholic Church, breaking away from her Episcopal upbringing, met with great resistance from her own family. Her desire to open a school in New York also met with resistance, leading her to her move to Baltimore and, later on, Emmitsburg, Md.
These are just two simple examples from the lives of saints. There are plenty more, I am sure. It can also be certain that their stories are not unique. How many other men and women have entered religious life or the priesthood despite the protestations and lack of support from family members who could not understand the desire to serve Christ in that way? How may others have joined the Church despite opposition and lack of support from family and friends? It seems that being a disciple of Christ means sacrificing a great deal.
Does Our Lord delight in being a cause of division? I doubt it. It is simply that not all people come to grasp the truth about Christ or respond to God's love in the same way or at the same time. Jesus knew that. He experienced it even in the midst of His little band of apostles. Peter, the one He called the Rock, denied Him three times, and was in anguish over that fact. And yet He allows Himself to be loved by Jesus and is reconciled with Him after the resurrection. Judas betrayed Christ, but in despair hung himself. Perhaps it was impossible for him to conceive that God could forgive such a great sin as betrayal, and yet Jesus still addresses him as friend even in the garden of Gethsemane. The love of God made manifest in Christ demands a response. It can be acceptance or rejection, and therein rests the reason for division.
This should not come as a surprise. Simeon prophesied that the Christ child would be set "for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against . . . that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed" (Lk 2:34-35).
But the same Jesus Christ who says He will be a source of division also offers a great re-assurance to those who seek to follow Him: "Everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name's sake, will receive a hundred-fold and inherit eternal life" (Mt 19:29).
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