Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, NOLA
If Christ makes us worthy to preach his Good News, he also prepares us for the consequences of doing so. Sending the apostles into the world to spread the Word of his Father's mercy, Jesus lays bare the most painful effect of taking on his apostolic mission, “For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother. . .and one's enemies will be those of his household.” Such division is not the purpose of his coming, but it is the inevitable consequence of cutting the bonds of sin. He says, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace upon the earth. I have come to bring not peace but the sword.” With the sword of salvation, the Christ severs us from our ancient servitude to sin and brings a peace that surpasses all understanding, a peace between the Father and His adopted children. With such a peace between heaven and earth firmly established, conflicts among those we love most can become pitched battles, bloody wars of attrition. Thus, fairly warned, we set our eyes on the victory Christ won on the Cross and work to merit the unearned trust he invests in us to see his mission accomplished.
Why does taking up one's cross and following Christ turn a father against his sons, a mother against her daughters? Why does becoming an apostle of the Good News threaten to undermine friendships and make us an enemy in our households? Jesus not only warns us about this possibility, he tells us why it will happen, “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me. . .” How often do we hear challenges to the faith that sound something like this, “If you really loved me, you would accept me as I am”? “If you were truly my friend, you wouldn't call me out for doing this”? “If you were serious about having a good workplace environment, you would just shut up about religious stuff”? How often are we called upon—in the name of love—to cease our apostolic mission and submit to the world's idea of peace? How often are we lectured about the divisiveness of our “black and white morality” and told to just accept that life is really “all about the gray areas”? How often are we threatened with exile from polite society, family, friends if we stand firm against the prevailing winds of cultural decay, political corruption, and religious persecution? The peace Christ establishes btw heaven and earth inevitably brings conflict btw those who are vowed to his mission and those who see themselves as targets of that mission.
Can we preach the Good News without a fight? It seems that we are fated to fight the rulers of this world if we will preach the Good News. Refusing to concede that Christ has already won the war on the Cross, the angels of rebellion and corruption believe that they still have a chance of winning. We know better. They lost the moment they rebelled against their Creator, so there's no saving a spirit lost to perdition. However, no man is lost while he still lives. Where a human will still holds sway, we have a chance to be heard and seen. What must we say and do to be convincing? Always and everywhere, without concession or hesitation, we must speak the Word of truth, that God's mercy is eagerly, freely available to anyone who will receive it. Always and everywhere, without concession or hesitation, we must show that Word of truth, that God's mercy is eagerly, freely given to anyone who needs it. It is not enough to proclaim free access to mercy. Mercy must be shown. We cannot fight on the world's terms. We do not belong to the world. We belong to Christ. The Cross he carried is the Cross we carry: a weapon of mass redemption, the bloodied tool of mercy.
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