Saturday, August 13, 2016

Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time Cycle C

Welcome to read homilies for the Sundays of the year. These are sample homilies which you can read with devotion. You may use them in your own homilies without asking my permission. You may also change or edit these to fit them to your audience. A unique quality of these homilies is that they are Christ-filled. From beginning to end they present to us some aspect of Jesus so that beholding his glory we “are being transformed from glory to glory into his very image” (2 Corinthians 3:18 NAB).

The Divider

It is very strange, again I say, it is very strange that the person who holds all things together, who unites all creation, who is the principle of love and unity for all is also the principle of disunity among human beings. He divides human beings among themselves so that they are in conflict with one another. This principle of unity is also the principle of conflict and division.

That is very strange but that is what we have heard this morning from our Gospel reading. Jesus explicitly says that he has come not to bring peace but division. Again here are his words, "Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. From now on a household of five will be divided, three against two and two against three; a father will be divided against his son and a son against his father, a mother against her daughter and a daughter against her mother, a mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.”
Jesus illustrates this division or conflict within the family: son against father, father against son, mother against daughter, daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law. In other words Jesus will be the cause or occasion of conflict within a family.

But Jesus is also the principle of unity for all of creation. He disposes everything he created in such a way that a well-orchestrated harmony exists in this creation. St. Paul expressed this beautifully in his letter to the Colossians. He says, "In him, that is, in Jesus, everything in heaven and on earth was created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominations, principalities or powers; all were created through him and for him. He is before all else that is. In him everything continues in being" (1:16-17). In other words all things hold together in Jesus. He is the principle of unity.

The scientist and Jesuit priest Fr. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin explained these words of St. Paul to mean that Jesus is the actual physical bond of the universe. He said, he "operates physically in order to regulate all things" (THE PHENOMENON OF MAN).

But it is only among human beings that he causes or occasions division or conflict. And this begins in the family, the basic unit of society.

The reason for this division or conflict is because for Jesus the priority is not the family but God's kingdom. When one's priority is not Jesus' kingdom but something else, like family, business, fame or fortune, or anything else, he runs into conflict with Jesus and with those who follow Jesus. And Jesus said that this happens in the family.

Today we hear the expressions "family first", "family time", "family bonding". There is an effort to strengthen family ties in the midst of work and recreation. For Jesus such expressions mean nothing. For him it is always the kingdom of God first, middle and last.

Since the 1960s when Fr. Patrick Peyton began his Family Rosary crusade the theme proposed to many families was "The family that prays together, stays together". Humanly speaking this is a worthy endeavor, to use the Rosary to maintain the unity of the family. But for Jesus this family unity has no value if it exists against the kingdom. The ideal is that the  family Rosary builds up the kingdom of Jesus and not just the maintenance of family togetherness.

A son is called by God to become a religious for the sake of the kingdom of God. The father objects. Conflict arises between father and son. A daughter is called by God to marry a poor, lay preacher of the Gospel. The mother objects because she does not want her daughter to stay poor. Conflict arises between mother and daughter. Situations like this can be multiplied. In all of them, Jesus is the determining factor. Follow him or one's family. He divides family members. He is the great divider.
The choice is ours. Is it Jesus we follow or will we follow our family and friends. There are other passages in the Gospel where Jesus is very explicit. In Luke 14 he says, "If anyone comes to me without turning his back on his father and mother, his wife and his children, his brothers and sisters, indeed his very self, he cannot be my follower" (verse 26). This is the translation of the New American Bible. The Authorized Version has the word "hate" for "turning his back" because the original Greek word here is really "hate". So  the commentators say that what Jesus really meant was "love less". "Hate" is only a Jewish expression, a hyperbole, to make his meaning very clear. Then they bring in the passage from Matthew where Jesus says, "Whoever loves father or mother, son or daughter, more than me is not worthy of me" (10:37). Then these commentators say that what Jesus meant was that we love him more than anyone else.

Anyone can give his own interpretation. But the words of Jesus are very clear. The kingdom of God, living God's life, inevitably produces conflict in our family and friends if their priority is not Jesus. Jesus asks each one of us today: What is your priority, living harmoniously with your family or living my life in God's kingdom? I hope that we give him the right answer.

Let us bow our heads in prayer. Father, your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.

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