“I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed! Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division!
From now on five in one household will be divided, 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 her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.
Following Jesus does not allow us to remain neutral. Jesus’ passionate message here foretells both the suffering he was to undergo through the “baptism” of the cross, as well as the real opposition that would face his followers.
Perhaps the words of this Gospel need not be so unsettling. After all, the force of Jesus’ message is rightfully a cause for concern for those who feel threatened by the Kingdom which he embodies. As theologian Jon Sobrino, SJ, reminds us, “For Jesus, his task is not only affirming the truth about God, but unmasking the lies that suppress the truth about God.”
So, too, is it our task to denounce injustice, stand with the oppressed, and unmask corruption and dehumanization. To remain silent is to settle for a false peace that is unworthy of the sacrifice of Jesus, and the great cloud of witnesses who have trod the path before us.
Lord Jesus, you stood with the poor, sick, and marginalized during your lifetime, and you call us to stand on the side of the oppressed in our society today. Give us the strength to not remain silent in the face of injustice, so that we can work toward a more peaceful, just kingdom on earth. Amen.
—The Jesuit Prayer team