The Sword of Division

Matthew 10: 34—11:1
Isa 1:10-17 / Psa 50

I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.
(Matthew 10:34)

The enemy will sow confusion
In our ranks to try to shake our faith,
But his evil schemes of division
God will use His Word to propagate.

(Jesus said,) “Do not think that I have come to bring peace on the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s foes will be those of his own household. He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who does not take his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it. He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me. He who receives a prophet because he is a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward, and he who receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward. And whoever gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he shall not lose his reward.” And when Jesus had finished instructing His twelve disciples, He went on from there to teach and preach in their cities. (Matthew 10:34—11:1)

Reflection

Upon reading these shocking words of Jesus — “I have not come to bring peace but a sword” — what instantly comes to mind are the foreboding words of old Simon in the temple when he addressed the Blessed Mother Mary: “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted (and you yourself a sword will pierce) so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed” (Lk. 2:34-35). If the sinless mother of our Savior herself would not be spared the pain and anguish for the sake of our salvation, how much more for us, whose sins are the very cause of that sword?

Then our Lord illustrates the prophecy of old Simon in the temple further: “A man’s foes will be his own household.” The household of Israel was indeed divided when the faith of the first Christians appeared to contradict the old traditions of the Jews, and many of them were persecuted and put to the sword. The life of St. Paul himself was a “contradiction” when he first persecuted the early Church, and then fell from his horse in his Damascus conversion. He rose to become the greatest evangelizer. The Church has undergone numerous conflicts and divisions in its colorful history. Most prominent of these was in the 11th century, when the Church divided into two: the Greek Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church. Then the Protestant Reformation began in 1517. Through the years, many groups have broken away from the Church to form their own denominations. Today, thousands of Protestant churches all over the world call themselves “Christians.” And this is certainly good. John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Church, related a dream that he once had in which he found himself at the gates of heaven. He called out: “Are there any Roman Catholics here?” “No,” came the reply. “Are there any Presbyterians?” “No,” was the answer. “Are there any Methodists here?” “No,” came the reply again. Puzzled, he asked, “Well then, who is here?” The answer came back, “Christians!”

Even today, this division continues as many of the faithful leave the Church, disillusioned by the changes instituted by Vatican II. Conflicts, however, can also result in a more positive way, such as when our renewal community divided into two chapters some two years ago. This division has resulted in the rapid multiplication of members in both chapters, as the members rekindled their evangelistic spirit.

The message in today’s Gospel is about unity, and not division. If we are to be one with God against sin, then we must be united with all His children. But if it’s a question of sacrificing our relationship with members of our family for the sake of the Gospel, or for the service of His kingdom, then we must follow the words of Jesus, who said, “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who does not take his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me.” God comes first above everything.

Grant us the grace, dear God, to strive for unity and peace among all men, whether they belong to our Church and community or they have differences in beliefs and in the interpretation of Scriptures. May the example of compassion which our Lord Jesus has taught us pave the way for reconciling our differences, we pray. Amen.

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