Do you think I have come to establish peace on the earth? (Luke 12:49-53)

Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth?

The angels sang at Jesus’ birth: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests” (Luke 2:14). When we celebrate the Feast of Christmas, the birth of the Incarnate Word, God-with-us, we depict it with beautiful nativity scenes, a lone star radiant in the peaceful night sky, simple shepherds worshipping the newborn King of kings and Prince of Peace laying in a manger. It is only those who participate at Mass on weekdays who immediately get plunged in division. Starting on December 26, the Mass celebrates a number of individuals who paid the price for their faith in Christ with their very life. Saint Stephen is martyred, the Holy Innocents are silent witnesses with their death to the birth of the Son of God, and Saint Thomas Becket who engaged in conflict with Henry II, King of England, over the rights and privileges of the Church is murdered in Canterbury Cathedral by followers of the king.

To be a disciple of Jesus is to be invited to martyrdom either through the giving of one’s life for one’s belief in Christ or through the living of one’s life out of one’s belief in Christ and adherence to his teaching.

Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.

This word of the Savior is foreboding. This division sets people against one another. It certainly is easy to brush this aside as we hear the examples given by the Lord himself: father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother and so forth. Someone who has followed her faith at the cost of acceptance within her own family, however, will not read those lines so glibly. I’m thinking of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton.

Elizabeth Ann Bayley was born in New York City to a prominent Episcopal family on August 28, 1774. After seven happy years of marriage to William Magee Seton, her husband became very ill with tuberculosis. She travelled with him to Italy hoping to find a cure, but he died there in 1803. While in Italy, Elizabeth discovered Catholicism through the kindness of friends who offered her comfort as she grieved her husband’s death, inviting her to Mass with them. A year later in New York, Elizabeth officially converted to Roman Catholicism. Her choice to convert resulted in three years of financial struggle and social discrimination. She opened a boarding house for boys, but when the students’ parents discovered that she was Catholic they removed their sons from her house. Two years later she was invited to move to Baltimore with her family and to open a school for girls. Women began to join her work and, after moving to Emmitsburg, Maryland, she founded the Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph, the first congregation of women religious in the United States.

Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.

Each of us is called to this living martyrdom, for the Lord we follow died, out of amazing love for us, on the Cross. We are worth that much in God’s eyes that he calls us to a heroic living (and sometimes dying) in imitation of our Savior. This division to which Jesus calls us may be as simple as not contributing to slander or it may be as consequential as walking away from a potential financial windfall that is at the expense of some group “on the peripheries.” It could be quiet decisions made in private or could entail very public statements. I think of Saint Francis of Assisi who renounced his wealth and his inheritance to follow the call of God to rebuild his Church. Summoned by his father before the Bishop to account for bolts of cloth he had sold for the poor, Francis famously removed his garments and gave them to his father saying, “Until now I have called you my father on earth. But henceforth I can truly say: Our Father who art in heaven.”  Francis renounced the considerable wealth of his family to embrace the life of poverty and joy to which he was called.

Today you may wish to consider: Where does the division established by Christ cut through your career? Your relationships? Your life as a Christian?

Praying with this Passage of Scripture

Lectio Divina is a way of listening to God as he speaks in his Word. It is a practice of communicating with God through Scripture and attending to God’s presence and what he wishes to tell us. In this slow and prayerful reading of the Word of God, we allow ourselves to be transformed by the Spirit who forms us into the image of Christ. There are four movements in Lectio Divina: Read (lectio), Meditate (meditation), Pray (oratio), Contemplate (contemplation).

Begin by finding a still space to pray. Breathe deeply and become quieter within. Abandon any agenda, worries or thoughts you bring to this prayer and entrust these things to the merciful care of God. Ask for the grace to be receptive to what God will speak to you through this Scripture reading. Grant me, Jesus Divine Master, to be able to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God and your unfathomable riches. Grant that your word penetrate my soul; guide my steps, and brighten my way till the day dawns and darkness dissipates, you who live and reign forever and ever Ame

Read (lectio)
Begin by slowly and meditatively reading your Scripture passage out loud. Listen for a particular word or phrase that speaks to you at this moment and sit with it for a time.

“I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to undergo, and what constraint I am under until it is completed! Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”

Meditate (meditatio) – Read the same passage a second time. As you re-engage the text, let the word or phrase that stood out become your invitation to speak from your heart with God who wishes to share his heart with you. Allow this word or phrase to wash over you and permeate your thoughts and feelings. You may wish to repeat this phrase quietly and gently for a period of time

Pray (oratio) – Read the text a third time. Listen for what God is saying to you. Speak heart to heart with God. Notice the feelings that this conversation with God raises up within you. Share with God what you notice about your response to this conversation. You may wish to return to repeating the phrase quietly and gently, allowing it to permeate you more and more deeply.

Contemplate (contemplatio)
Read the text a final time. Now be still and rest in God’s embrace. Ask God to give you a gift to take with you from this prayer. You might ask God if he is inviting you to do some action, for instance, make some change in your thoughts, attitudes or reactions, in the way you speak or how you treat others. Thank God for this gift and invitation as you conclude your prayer.

Photo Credit: Amorsanto via Cathopic

One thought on “Do you think I have come to establish peace on the earth? (Luke 12:49-53)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.