When I was a boy in grade school (Yes, that was a long time ago!), we were sometimes told stories about children who betrayed their parents to the authorities in Communist countries. According to these stories, children would carry tales about their parents to the local authorities who would then arrest the parents and sent them to labor camps in places like Siberia.
Were these stories true, or was this just an example of the kind of propaganda that was so prevalent in the 1950's? I suspect that there was an element of truth to the stories, but I am not so naïve as to believe that the anti-Red feelings that were so prevalent in that era did not contribute to their dissemination. However, the point that I think is worth considering is that new philosophies, new ideas, new ways of doing things usually provoke or evoke dissension and disagreement. The advent of Christianity would have done the same. History has shown that the Christian community was persecuted by the Jewish authorities and tortured by the secular authorities of the time.
Today's Gospel is disconcerting. Jesus seems to be saying that such dissension and alienation was part of his purpose in coming among us. However, when we stop to consider that the Gospels were written at least three decades after Jesus' death and resurrection, we begin to realize that the evangelist is simply reporting what is already a fact; namely, that the Christian community, like any group which promotes a new order, did experience this kind of dissension and discord.
There is nothing really new in today's Gospel. Thus it has been, and thus it will be. However, the Gospel does challenge me on two fronts. First, I am reminded that listening to the opinions of others is a worthwhile exercise. Developing listening skills so that I can come to understand someone with new ideas is a life-long task. Second, I am reminded that if I am true to my faith and to the teachings of the Church, not everyone will agree with me; and such disagreements will sometimes impair or destroy relationships that are important to me. However, my relationship to Jesus is and must remain the priority of my life.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator