34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.
35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother,
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; 36 and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household.
This is a tough gospel to hear…it does not show us the kind and gentle Jesus, but the powerful Christ who has come into the world to shake things up…and to change our lives and the world.
Jesus came to proclaim the truth of God’s love and justice for all people; he speaks of God’s forgiveness and calls on us to share this message by showing love and compassion to each other! In short Jesus often tells us what we don’t want to hear! Like that we have to love our enemies, and give what we can to feed the poor, tend to the sick and give shelter to the homeless. Jesus also calls upon us to share this message with a world that is less than enthusiastic about these ideas, and who may even mock us for our faith!
The message of Jesus was so disturbing to the status quo that it eventually lead to his execution on the cross…dying in torturous pain while the crowds and centurions taunted him; however, it was his death in torment on the cross, that lead to the greatest change of all: the Resurrection, which sparked a faith that would transform the world!
This transformation did not come easily, along the way people of faith made many mistakes, some became misguided and mislead, and others died in order to keep the message of Christ alive. The message of Christ is not always an easy one to hear…as it points out in today’s Gospel reading, it has caused everything from wars and arguments to family conflicts; yet out of these struggles, change has occurred and the true Gospel message of God’s love and call to reconciliation has been shared with the world.
As single parents, we know something about family conflicts, and how telling the truth can often be difficult, if not down-right painful!
For me, it took a lot of time to come to the truth that my marriage was over, and that it was time to move on. It was a painful choice, although the only one I could make for myself and my daughter…and for her mother as well! I had to ‘stir things up’ in order for things to change, and eventually improve, though it was a hard road to recovery.
Later on, after I had moved out of our apartment, while still struggling to learn how to be a single parent…I had to face some more truths, which helped me to heal: such as the truth that I had to take responsibility for my part in the end of our marriage, and look at what I had done wrong. This allowed me to be able to start the process of forgiveness…which took a long time, but allowed my ex-wife and I to build a good post-divorce relationship that proved invaluable while our daughter was growing up, and facing challenges of her own.
I also had to acknowledge the truth that I did not know what I was doing as a single father, that I needed help, and a lot of it; this was hard to accept, but helped to make a change, and caused me to ask the help I needed…and got, from friends, family, professionals, and even my ex-wife!
As my daughter grew up we experienced our share of conflicts. From the days when she was a toddler and I had to tell her that I did not have time to play with her, to her defiance when it was time for bed or a bath…to not allowing a sleepover when she was in grade school, to fights over cell phones, friends, dates, the car, and the behaviors I knew were inappropriate or dangerous when she was a teen-ager.
In these cases, telling the truth (as I saw it) was not easy, and there were times when I just wanted to keep my mouth shut to avoid the conflict that I knew was coming. I love my daughter and hated fighting with her…and the arguments were loud, and sometimes included thrown furniture, broken windows and intervention by law enforcement and medical personnel.
There were also times when my daughter told me the truth, and that was often hard for me to accept! Like when I set a punishment that was too harsh, or when I lost my temper and started yelling when it was not necessary, or when I jumped to a conclusion that was not true. These were times when she told me I was being unfair, and she was correct, and I had to swallow my pride and admit my mistake, and ask her for forgiveness.
Through all these conflicts, arguments, mistakes, and having to make amends to each other, we learned new ways to communicate and to relate to each other as father and daughter…and things did change! Most of these changes were for the better, as we learned not to argue quite so loudly, to remember that we loved each other, and that we could both learn from each other! We got through the tough teen years, and things are improving for us and our relationship.
Though our lives were turned upside down for a while, through this turmoil we learned the importance of reaching out to others for help, finding comfort in the fact that we were not alone; a lot of parents and children were going through similar conflicts and could offer us understanding support and advice. We also learned the importance of faith in our lives; for me it was faith in God’s imminent presence in our lives and everlasting love, given to us directly and through others. For my daughter, it was faith in the power of the universe, in the love of those around her, and in the hope that can be found in following a path of recovery and healing.
Conflict is an unfortunate part of our lives, but sometimes it is necessary to stir things up in order to make changes, and to move forward. Just as Jesus came to stir things up here in our world, in order that we may find our way into the Kingdom of God, where we can be reconciled with God and each other…in our lives there are times when our old relationships have to be broken, and our lives thrown into confusion in order to build new relationships and a new life together…immersed in God’s grace in the light of the Risen Christ!
In this light there is reconciliation, healing and joy…as after all, the good news of Christ is a cause for joy and celebration…just as our children are a reason for rejoicing!
Let us Pray:
God, we know that conflict is a part of our lives, please help us to remember that despite our differences, we are all still your well-loved children, and all part of the same family! Please help us to learn from our conflicts and to treat each other with respect and compassion…not allowing pride to get in the way of the healing that can happen from “stirring things up”. Thank you that your love comes to us in the midst of our lives, offering us hope, comfort and support…reminding us that we are never alone, and that others have been through the same struggles that we have seen. Together let us share our wisdom, faith, and the joy of living immersed in your grace.