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The Reality of Division
Throughout the Gospel of Luke, Jesus calls on his hearers to turn their hearts away from greed and instead to generosity, to turn away from anxious self-preservation and instead to faithful self-giving. But such practice rubs against humanity’s deepest-seated sin, so conflict is born out of Jesus’ peace-filled activity. Jesus’ words and actions had already pitted him against the religious leaders and will lead him to the cross. Now, in today’s gospel, Jesus speaks to the reality of that division.
His words unsettle us, yet they are spoken for a reason. In the reading from Jeremiah, God challenges the prophets who dole out lies and deceit and asks, how long until they turn their hearts back to me? This is a question of compassion and yearning for a restored relationship. Likewise, although Jesus’ words are incendiary and speak of broken relationships, they are meant to prompt the people’s faithful response: to lay aside anxiety and greed and to turn their hearts to the treasures of God’s promised kingdom, where Christ takes division upon himself on the cross.
While fully aware of the realities of conflict and division, we are to live as hopeful people, praying fervently for God’s compassion and for the restoration of right relationships.
Gospel: Luke 12:49-56
Jesus delivers harsh words about the purifying and potentially divisive effects of obedience to God’s call. The way of the cross often leads followers to encounter hostility and rejection, even from those they love.
[Jesus said:] 49“I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! 50I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed! 51Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! 52From now on five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; 53they will be divided:
father against son
and son against father,
mother against daughter
and daughter against mother,
mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law
and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”
54He also said to the crowds, “When you see a cloud rising in the west, you immediately say, ‘It is going to rain’; and so it happens. 55And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, ‘There will be scorching heat’; and it happens. 56You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?”