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Living the Gospel ...

Dear Parishioners,

Most people naturally try to avoid a fight. We all want to live our lives in peace. We pray for peace in our world, in our communities, and in our homes. But what is peace? Jesus makes clear in this weekend’s Gospel that peace is not the absence of strife. In fact, He suggests that being on fire to accomplish His mission will bring serious divisions. The issue here isn’t to sow division, but rather to be faithful to the saving mission for which Jesus was sent. We have the deepest peace when we ourselves take up and are faithful to Jesus’ saving mission. Even in the midst of strife, we can all know peace.

In this weekend’s Gospel, fire is an image referring to divine judgment. Jesus is clearly stating that He has come to judge the people. His own faithfulness to this task and to His saving mission led to His great anguish and ultimately to His Passion and Death. So will we, His faithful disciples, be treated. Jesus’ intent here is not primarily to condemn people, but to challenge them to right living according to the covenant established with God. So right living must be our intent. Being true to the mission and being committed to the mission means that we’re going to face opposition sometimes. The critical question for Jesus’ disciples is whether or not we are on fire enough to continue His saving mission … no matter what the cost.

The pivotal point is that neither Jesus nor any of us choose division and strife. We choose to speak God’s Word and to preach the values consistent with God’s reign. Divisions occur simply by being faithful to God’s message. This is the real shock value of the Gospel … being a faithful disciple of Jesus will often instigate a clash of values, of principles, and of priorities. The judgment we ourselves must make each day – and many times each day – is whether or not we are faithful to the Gospel values and challenges Jesus has taught us.

Jesus’ very message is divisive because it calls people to a radical way of living – self-giving for the good of others. We must make a decision to follow Him or not … to share His Passion (“baptism”) or not, to be self-giving as He is or not. We have the freedom to choose. We have free will. And the choice we make sometimes results in division, even within families, because all of us do not make the same choice to follow Jesus.

Jesus came to preach the Good News of radical fidelity to God. Paradoxically, being faithful to Jesus, even when this brings strife and division, is how we come to lasting peace. If we compromise the Gospel message in order to have peace now, we forfeit the everlasting peace which is promised to the faithful disciple. The choice is ours.

Realistically, most of us do not live our discipleship this dramatically nor are we faced with such consequential choices. We are hardly called like Jeremiah in the First Reading to announce to the Israelites that their beloved Jerusalem will fall into the hands of the Babylonians – nor are we thrown into a cistern … into a well … to die! Nor like Jesus will we be nailed to a cross because of our preaching and teaching. Nevertheless, we are called to be faithful to God’s Word in the small, everyday things as well as at times when the more serious challenges come along.

We do not seek division, but we seek consistency in living Gospel values. The very way we live our lives is a way to preach the Gospel. Sometimes strife and division are signs of our faithful commitment. Gospel living is not always easy!

May Saint Michael the Archangel defend, guide, protect, and intercede for us always!

Fr. Larry

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