Three Against Two and Two Against Three
Today’s Gospel does not sit comfortably with our image of Jesus as prince of peace. It was verses like these that the crusaders and conquistadores used to justify violence against non-Christians. The Bible (like the Quran) is liable to misinterpretation when a few verses are taken out of context. Luke’s Gospel was composed in the 80/s AD, when Christians were experiencing persecution by the Jewish and Roman authorities. Families were divided. Some were converting to Christianity while others were not.
As Christians, we try to preach the Gospel with both clarity and charity. Pope Francis is gracious to the world leaders he meets, even though he does not share their philosophy. He sees quiet perseverance, patience and meekness as signs of the ‘solid grounding in the God who loves us…(that) prevents us from being carried away by the violence that is so much part of life today.’ (Gaudete et Exultate 112, 116). We can remain true to the way, while being tactful and generous.
Sadly, many people are no strangers to family feuds. In past generations, things like land, homes and inher- itance were major causes of family disagreements, causing parents to fall out with sons or daughters, or siblings to stop speaking for years. We may have heard other stories from our own families – secrets that were not talked about, relatives who were shunned for ‘shaming’ the family. These attitudes are dying away, and that is good. We are less concerned with keeping up appearances, and more focused on ensuring children feel loved and supported.
Yet, there will always be conflicts in family life. Differences of opinion can arise over beliefs or choices, sometimes causing immense hurt on both sides. Often these disagreements are between generations. Parents who have raised their children in the faith can feel hurt when a son or daughter drifts away, or decides not to pass on the faith to their own children. Grandparents often carry this burden too.
Some conflict is unavoidable as we navigate these situations, but we have a choice – do we allow anger and hurt to shape our interactions with loved ones, or do we listen with respect and try to understand and find common ground? Perhaps these inevitable conflicts are what Jesus refers to in today’s Gospel – father divided against son, mother against daughter. It’s a surprising statement given his usual focus on peace. But then, following Jesus is not a smooth path. Peace can be hard-won, particularly in families where there are so many different personalities and opinions. Let us pray for wisdom and patience to navigate the tougher times.
The commitment of Jesus to his mission is shown in his desire to undergo the Baptism that awaits him. Have there been times when there was something we greatly hoped for, even though we knew there would be a baptism of fire along the way? What was it like for us to undergo such a baptism of fire and then arrive at what we desired?
Jesus recognized that the message he proclaimed would meet with a mixed reception. This did not hold him back from proclaiming the Reign of God. When have we seen this kind of courage in yourself, or in others?
Jesus challenged those listening to him to commit themselves to discipleship, despite opposition from those close to them, even family members. When have we found that being true to ourselves and to our beliefs required such courage? What was it like for us when we were able to follow that courageous road?