Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator
St. Luke's Gospel presents us with a picture of Jesus that can best be summed up in the words "compassion" and "gentleness." Jesus is presented as the incarnation of these two attributes of God whereas Saints Matthew and Mark tend to present Jesus as the stern teacher and the example of suffering respectively. Consequently, the words of today's Gospel passage may be somewhat jarring and "out of character" for St. Luke. Division and strife are not expected.
It is important for us to remember that whenever Jesus predicts something in the Gospels, the prediction is not so much about the future as it is about the present. In other words, let us remember that the Gospels were written long after Jesus has returned to the Father and that the realities or consequences of Christian life are already manifest in the lives of the disciples. When Jesus predicts the destruction of the Temple, we must remember that the Gospels were written after the fact. When Jesus predicts that the disciples will be persecuted, it is important to remember that the persecutions had already started or were imminent. Just so, when Jesus predicts that following him will mean division in family life, it is safe to say that it has already happened in the lives of such families.
This is not to say that Jesus did not know that these results were possible. After all, he could see that his actions were stirring up the Jewish and Roman authorities against him personally. However, it is important that we don't cast Jesus in the role of "fortune teller."
Family life today is also fraught with divisions, arguments, and differences of opinion. One does not have to be in the midst of a presidential campaign to realize that people have differences of opinion and express those opinions in what might be characterized as rude, insensitive, obnoxious or thoroughly hateful ways. The sad fact is that there is more fighting and warfare over issues of religion than over any other part of our social fabric.
How should we respond? We can use St. Paul as a model. He was constantly beset by enemies who tried to undo what he had done throughout his life as the Apostle to the Gentiles. His response was always the same – words spoken in love and consideration rather than words spoken in rancor and hatred.