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Jesus' radical call PDF Print E-mail

18 August 2013: Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

I have come not to give peace, but discord

Why does Jesus talk so much about the conflict his call can cause in families? Has he had problems with his own family? Probably so. Jesus' family members are not sympathetic to his activities around Galilee. They do not understand his behaviour. At one point his mother and brothers come to take him home because they think he has gone crazy. Today Jesus tells us “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law”.

Relationships between mothers and daughters-in-law were not always easy, but they were very important in achieving the wife's integration into her husband's household. A divided family would lose stability it needed to protect its members and defend their honour. The family required total loyalty.

Jesus' radical call is not inspired by the ideal of an ascetic life, superior to all others. Jesus is not trying to burden us his followers with more demanding laws and norms. He is calling us to share in his passion for God and his total availability for the service of God's reign. He wants to light a fire that will burn in their hearts. Jesus is asking us his disciples to live as he does. By holding on blindly to their life they may lose it; by generously and courageously risking life they may save it.

Pope Francis in a recent conversation said, "Morality is not a never falling down, but an always getting up again. Mercy is the Lord's most powerful message. It is not easy to trust oneself to the mercy of God". For from Jesus we will not hear the word of contempt or condemnation but only words of love, mercy that invite us to conversation. "Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more". The problem is that we get tired of asking for forgiveness. It’s the Ignatian exercises at the heart of Jesuit Spirituality that have honed and refined the Pope's instincts. "We must never allow the throw away culture to enter our hearts. No one is disposable. Only when we are able to share do we become truly rich, everything that is shared is multiplied". (The Tablet, 17th August).

In our complicated lives that sometimes rob us of our true happiness, Reverend Bob Moorehead in his book, Words Aptly Spoken, wrote this sombre appraisal of how he sees the world and what we should be passing to the next generation:

The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings, but shorter tempers; wider freeways, but narrower viewpoints; we spend more, but have less; we buy more, but enjoy less.

We have bigger houses and smaller families; more conveniences, but less time; we have more degrees, but less sense; more knowledge, but less judgement; more experts, but less solutions; more medicine, but less health.

We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our value; we talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often. We’ve learned how to make a living, but not a life. We’ve added years to life, not life to years.

We've been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet the neighbour. We've conquered outer space, not inner space. We’ve cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul; we've split the atom, but not our prejudice. We have higher incomes, but lower morale; we've become long on quantity, but short on quality.

These are the times of tall men, and short character; steep profits, and shallow relationships. These are the times of world peace, but domestic violence; more leisure, but less fun, more kinds of food, but less nutrition.

These are the days of two incomes, but more divorce; of fancier houses, but broken homes. It is a time when there is so much in the show room window and nothing in the stockroom. Our world is not quite so neat, not so either/or but these words focus on the essentials of our life.