PARADOXICAL

The faith chronicles

Monday, August 20, 2007

 

Peace and division


Fr. D. is such a wonderful preacher. His sermons are focused, well-researched, unified, and endlessly insightful. Last Sunday, he dwelt on Jesus' rhetorical line, "I came to bring war/division, not peace," in order to shed light on division as seen from the Christian viewpoint and how it is not that bad and certainly not incompatible with the concept of peace. I was almost despairing of the fact that I couldn't catch all the wisdom he had uttered, but I will try my best to distill here what I did catch.

"Why does Jesus speak here about division, when He speaks about peace in other stories? (Fr. D. quotes different passages from different books.) Why speak about fathers against sons, sons versus fathers, and so on? Why can't we say, 'Let's all just get along'?"

"Then again, God also speaks about division elsewhere in Scripture. The Bible is filled with images of division. Remember that Jesus came into this world amidst great division. Recall how Herod ordered the massacre of innocents. There was great division. Recall how in Revelations, God promises to separate the sheep from the goat." (Recall passages about the wheat and the weed.)

"Sometimes, division is necessary because peace cannot possibly coexist with evil. It's false peace if it is in conflict with truth. We can't make peace with sin."

"Sometimes, division is not a mere consequence. Sometimes it exposes the division already present in the hearts of men."

"We are all familiar with division. We know what division means in the family, in society, even within ourselves. When we are torn between two things, there is division."

Division, clearly, is not a very enjoyable or happy thing. But it is unavoidable, even necessary, if we are to be faithful in living out our life as Christians. We should be ready to face opposition, especially in issues of faith that have popular interpretations (interpreted popularly for the sake of friendship or the respect and approval of men).

(Fr. D. then recounts a riveting story of how Bishop John Fisher of Manchester, England was beheaded (literally divided!; I can't remember the year) because he wouldn't compromise with sin (the reigning king's (King Henry VIII?) legitimization of his divorce and adultery) that he'd rather have division. What I remember the most about the story is that this bishop not only encountered division with the reigning royalty and elite but also with his brother bishops; he was called a "troublemaker" or rabble-rouser. This is the saddest part of all. Like Thomas More in his time, he was reportedly the only one who opposed the king, and he paid dearly for it. He was eventually canonized as a martyr of the Church.

(I hope I didn't get the history all mixed up.)


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