I have come to light a fire on the earth.
At first read, these words of Jesus make no sense – they seem so out of character – do you think I’ve come for peace…no division!…families will be divided…what are we to make of this? But once we let these words sink in, once we realize that the ‘Peace’ Jesus is about is a ‘Peace’ that comes from truth – then we can begin to understand.
Truth is hard – hard on individuals, hard on families, communities, nations and the world. Truth takes courage – courage to face truth, to speak truth, to live truth. Truth often means change and we all know that change is never easy, never without challenges, and almost never welcomed.
When families stop pretending that Billy’s drinking is not really a problem and Sally’s perpetual lying is not something she will simply outgrow there is likely going to be struggle. When a community acknowledges its ethnic or racial biases, there is going to be defensive kick-back. When nations begin to address the inequities among peoples, there will be challenges and struggles. Truth can lead to division and denial, truth can result in defensiveness and polarity.
But truth, if embraced, even when difficult and challenging, can also bring about peace – the peace Jesus spoke of – the peace that is the result of being immerged in God’s Word, God’s truth. Are we willing to embrace our Baptism and claim the truth – even when difficult – and do what we know is right? Are we able to look at the uncomfortable truth’s in our lives, families, nations and world and face them as a follower of Jesus?
Faith Offman is the Associate Director of Ministry at St. Paul of the Cross Passionist Retreat and Conference Center in Detroit, Michigan.