Today’s gospel (Lk 12:49-53) is copied at the bottom. Here is a summary of my homily.
St John of the Cross sums up the Big Picture for us when he says: “In the evening of our lives, we will be judged according to LOVE.” This points us to the two great commandments: Love God with your whole heart, mind, soul and strength and love your neighbour as yourself.
This tells us that we owe God an ABSOLUTE loyalty. This is true because he created us out of nothing for an eternal destiny with himself. This is a totally unique relationship that we can never have with anybody else. On the other hand we owe family and friends a RELATIVE loyalty: parents, children, spouses, employers, confidants, etc. Usually there is never a conflict between the two. Indeed the Fourth Commandment bids us to honour our father and mother.
If there is however a conflict between loyalty to God or somebody else, we must always give priority to God. This is the context of what Jesus says today: Do you suppose that I am here to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. For from now on a household of five will be divided: three against two and two against three.
One example of such a conflict was St Thomas More who was convicted of treason and sentenced to death because he would not approve of King Henry VIII’s divorce and take-over of the Church. While on death row in the Tower of London he was visited by his wife and daughter who begged him on their knees to go along with what Henry wanted. He could even withhold internal assent to the Oath of Supremacy that he was required to publicly make. His response and life was summed up in his last words: “I die the King’s good servant but God’s first.”
A second example was St Clare, the contemporary of St Francis. Having a sense of a religious vocation, she had to strongly resist the marriage that her parents had arranged for her at the age of 15. Later on when she joined St Francis’ movement and started a monastery, she was raided by her father and uncles who wanted to take her back home. She resisted so strongly that they eventually gave up.
Thus we owe God an absolute loyalty because he created us out of nothing for an eternal destiny with himself.
Jesus said to his disciples: ‘I have come to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were blazing already! There is a baptism I must still receive, and how great is my distress till it is over! ‘
Do you suppose that I am here to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. For from now on a household of five will be divided: three against two and two against three; the father divided against the son, son against father, mother against daughter, daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law, daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.