August 19th, 2007 Year C
20th Sunday in Ordinary Time/12th Sunday After Pentecost
Reflections on the Readings by Dennis Hankins
Theme: Keeping Our Eyes on Jesus
Only He who divides us can truly unite us.
The Gospel reading today brings us some of Jesus' difficult teaching. After all, why does the Prince of Peace describe himself as not on a mission to bring peace? And how is that Jesus who prayed that they all may be one announces that he is bringing division instead of unity.
All of this appears as a great contradiction. Which is it? Do we find peace or division in Jesus' presence? And the answer is, "yes."
A cursory reading of the Bible often reveals conflict between those who are keeping the faith and those who do not. We think of Jacob and Esau. Jacob inherits the blessing (some would call it more like swindling) while Esau despised his birthright. There is Joseph and his brothers. His brothers despise Joseph the dreamer. They sell him into slavery. Then faking his death they contrive a lie about Joseph's deadly encounter with a wild beast, bringing all that remains of Joseph to Jacob his father, the tattered, bloodied coat of many colors. Jacob made this coat for his son Joseph. This lie sends Jacob into great mourning. How cruel. Don't forget David and his son Absalom. Absalom sought to take over the Kingdom from his father while David's great love for his son succumbs to the bitter reality of Abasalom's death.
Let us remember that He who reconciles us to himself also can reconcile us to each other. Let us not lose heart or hope. The division between us and those very close to us is not because we love them less now that we love Jesus more. But this experience highlights the reality that we cannot love our family or our neighbor rightly unless we love Jesus wholly.
No one enjoys the hateful, hurtful glare of disdain or contempt. And even less so when it originates from those we love the most. But even through this we must love them through Jesus who was led as a sheep to the slaughter, neither opened he his mouth. Keeping our eyes on Jesus and our tongue in check can bring salvation to even the coldest of hearts. As the scripture says today, in your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood. (emphasis added)
An interesting thought about unbelieving husbands who have a believing wife is found in Paul's letter to the Corinthians. It has to do with what is to be done when a wife or a husband becomes a believer after marriage. St. Paul says, if any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband is consecrated through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is consecrated through her husband. Otherwise, your children would be unclean, but as it is they are holy. But if the unbelieving partner desires to separate, let it be so; in such a case the brother or sister is not bound. For God has called us to peace. Wife, how do you know whether you will save your husband? Husband, how do you know whether you will save your wife? (I Corinthians 7:10-16)
Indeed, we do not know the end from the beginning. Mom and Dad, how do you know whether you will save your children? Or Son or Daughter, how do you know whether you will save your Mom and Dad? Keep your eyes on Jesus remembering he his the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. Stay focused on Him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. Jesus' entire being was constrained and harnessed to fulfilling his mission of mercy. He is our example. If we will gaze upon him, stay focused on him, our eyes fixed on him, Jesus will help us touch the most reluctant, the most resentful, and the most resistant ones around us.
How do we maintain our vision of Jesus?
See him in others as though it is to him you offer warmth, food, clothing, shelter or a helping hand. (Matthew 25)
See him in the Eucharist. When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognized him. (Luke 24:30-31a)
See him in your heart. Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. (Revelation 3:20)
Let us pray: Dear Jesus, open my eyes. I want to see you more clearly. I want to behold you more deeply. I want to have a constant vision of you so that my heart is always aware you are near. And in keeping my eyes on you, may I see others with more compassion than judgment. Amen.