By Bishop Robert F. Morneau
Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth?
No, I tell you, but rather division (Luke 12:51).
Why did Jesus come on earth? What was his mission? Was he sent for unity
or division, for life or death, for love or hate?
The answer is quite clear: Jesus came that we might have life, life in
great abundance (John 10:10). But there is a deep, universal paradox here. As we hear
in Lukes Gospel, it would appear that division, not peace, is Jesus real
We need to ponder and to pray over this paradox. The poet T.S. Eliot
provides an insight: Beneath the bleeding hands we feel/The sharp compassion
of the healers art. The surgeon cuts away the cancer, a bloody divisive act,
indeed. Yet the motive is not to inflict pain and suffering. Rather, it is to bring
healing, to further the fullness of life. No false tenderness allows the healer to
withhold the knife; no good parent avoids disciplining his or her child. To bring health
and peace, pain must be inflicted.
So Jesus causes division wherever there is an unhealthy,
union. Out of compassion and love, the Lord separates us from everything that keeps
us from the love of the Father. This may appear cruel but it is in fact a great act
of kindness, a divine kindness. Shakespeare has Hamlet addressing his mother, the queen,
in these words: I must be cruel only to be kind.
Pope John XXIII spoke often about peace, the peace that is the Kingdom
of God. In his encyclical Pacem in Terris (Peace on Earth), he maintains that
peace demands four elements: truth, freedom, charity and justice. Jesus came to inaugurate
that Kingdom; he came to express truth, to incarnate love, to foster freedom and to
promote justice. In this mission there would be much division, since people
often opted for untruth and indifference, slavery and injustice.
Each of us must distinguish graced division from divisions that are simply
destructive. The surgeons knife separates a diseased organ or a tumor from the
bodya moment of grace. The slave trader separates children from their parentsa
horrendous sin. Moses placed before his people a choice of life or death (Deuteronomy
30:19).We are given the same choice: to be agents of life and peace or instruments
of death and chaos.
Just before Communion we pray, Lord Jesus Christ, you said to your
apostles: I leave you peace, my peace I give you. So when we read, Do you
think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather
division, we know that Jesus is making reference to what is called a false peace,
one in which relationships are not harmonious. Jesus will have nothing to do with such
unionshe will split them apart out of love and for the sake of truth.
The Big Peace
The human condition that we are steeped in is ambiguous. Choices, at
times, have to be made that in fact cause division and pain. We need but note the work
of the following Christians: Alan Paton in his opposition
to apartheid in South Africa; Dietrich Bonhoeffer, involved in a plot to assassinate
Hitler; Martin Luther King, Jr., in his ministry to secure human rights; Thomas Merton
in his stand against nuclear war; Dorothy Day, who fought against the status quo that
kept so many in radical poverty. All of them came to bring not peace, but division. These
disciples of Christ fought for the big peace, the Kingdom of God.
Gods word is a two-edged sword. Gods word admonishes us in
our sin; Gods word consoles us in our desolation. Gods WordJesusis
the divine instrument bringing us to life, even if, momentarily, our peace is
disturbed. When Jesus looked across the night fire into Peters eyes, we can feel
the division of that glance. Unlike Judas who saw only his betrayal of
Jesus, Peter saw within that gaze the eyes of compassion and forgiveness.
It is a good spiritual exercise for all of us to write out our mission
statement. What has God called us to be and to do? Why have we come upon this earth?
Surely, a major task we have all been given is to bring peace, right relationships.
Next: I am sending you like sheep among wolves
What is the difference between peace on earth and
the peace Christ brings?
Talk about a time in your life when division ultimately
brought you peace.
Lord, Grant Me Peace
By Judith Dunlap
There were so many times in my years of parenting when all I wanted was
a little peace. With seven of us in the house, it seemed there was always someone wanting
something or arguing with somebody. As toddlers and teens, my kids badgered and whined,
poked and pushed. Often I just wanted to say yes when no was the right answer, or give
in to the loudest protester just for some peace and quiet.
Real peace, the peace Jesus talks about, is not the same as peace
on earth. Arguments can continue, battles can be waged, people can disagreebut
we can still experience Gods peace. His peace is not grounded in a particular
condition or position. It is grounded in love. Gods peace is an inner calm, a
certainty that all will be well. While peace and quiet do not necessarily go hand in
hand, I discovered early in my parenting that I needed a little quiet to find that
peace. I needed a set time each day when the kids were safely settled (usually during
their daily dose of Sesame Street) to sit in quiet prayer. And I needed a yearly
getaway retreat to rest and restore both my body and spirit.
If you are like me and find it difficult to remain calm and not answer
every angry word with an even angrier retort, if it is hard for you to say, No
you cant, and not dissolve when called the meanest mom/dad in the worldthen
perhaps you too need to find some quiet time for prayer, to let go of your burdens
and injuries so your hands are free to accept Gods gift of peace. Once you accept
it, and rest in that gift, you can share it with all those around you.
Set some time aside for family quiet timea half hour each
day for reading or working with puzzles. Make sure everyone is in the same room,
but no talking.
Because of Winn-Dixie
By Frank Frost
Based on the acclaimed book thats a big-seller among school kids, and now available
on DVD, Because of Winn-Dixie is a movie with a heart. It opens with slapstick,
becomes poignant and ends with a warm sing-along uniting an eclectic group of once-lonely
people. As the girl narrating the story says, Everything good that happened that
summer happened because of Winn-Dixie.
Winn-Dixie is an orphan dog claimed by a lonely young girl who names him after the
supermarket where she finds himor, as she claims, the dog finds her. Opal (AnnaSophia
Robb) and her preacher father (Jeff Daniels) have recently moved to the small southern
town of Naomi, where he is trying to start a new life with a small congregation that
meets in a former convenience store. Her mother had abandoned husband and daughter
some years before, and Opal is without friends in the new town.
Winn-Dixie is a sort of angel in disguise whose initiatives introduce Opal to a series
of individuals, each with a loneliness of their own. Every life touched by Winn-Dixie
and by Opal will be transformed, from the curmudgeon who is willing to provide a rent-free
trailer to the preacher as a tax-deductible donation until Winn-Dixie comes into the
picture, to other childrena self-righteous snooty older girl, Amanda; a younger
child, Sweetie-Pie; and the Dewberry brothers, two bratty boys. All of them appear
antagonistic to Opal at the beginning, but she comes to see them in a different light.
It is the adults whose stories teach the big lessons, however. Winn-Dixie first leads
Opal to Otis (Dave Matthews), a guitar-playing drifter and former prison inmate who
manages a pet store for its owner and whose quiet music magically calms the beasts.
Winn-Dixie brings Opal to the local library and its librarian, Miss Frannie (Eva Marie
Saint), who hides her loneliness behind a rich imagination and a love of storytelling.
She accepts Opals offer to be her friend, and the stories she shares soon draw
in the aloof Amanda as well. The big lesson she has to share is that all of us know
hurt in our lives, and we need to be sympathetic to one another.
Winn-Dixie will also lead Opal into an overgrown property that the Dewberry brothers
warn her is the home of a witch who will eat her and her dog. The witch turns out to
be an eccentric blind woman (Cicely Tyson) who saysand demonstratesthat
she can see with her heart. She is transformed by the love of Opal even as she teaches
important life lessons to her young friend, especially acceptance of others for who
Because of Winn-Dixie requires a childlike suspension of disbelief, especially
since the story, so simply told, takes on a mythic quality. Were not expected
to literally believe everything we see. But as Opal says in the voice-over at the end, Its
a good story. Right?
What values do you find in this film?
By Judy Ball
Blessed Mother Teresa (1920-1997)
Who of us cannot picture the tiny woman, dressed in a sari and sandals,
ministering to the destitute and dying in the slums of India? Mother Teresa of Calcutta
challenged us all to see the face of Jesus in the poorest of the poor.
Born of Albanian parents in what is now Macedonia, she developed an early
interest in the foreign missions. She entered the Loreto Sisters in Dublin, Ireland,
at age 18. But her heart was in India, where she heard Jesus call her to serve him
in its slums.
She received permission to leave her original religious community and
establish a new one. She lived among the poor of Calcutta and opened a school for poor
children. The work was exhausting, but God blessed her with energy and an abundance
of volunteers, many of whom became the core of the Missionaries of Charity, the new
religious order she founded in 1950. As the community grew, so did its servicesto
orphans, abandoned children, alcoholics, the aging and street people.
For four decades Mother Teresa fully devoted herself to her ministry.
She knelt at the deathbeds of countless destitute and forgotten souls, praying with
and for them, feeding and comforting them, assuring them of Gods love. She found
time to crisscross the globe, pleading for financial support to extend her work and
inviting others to join her. In 1979 she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
But the real prize came in the autumn of 2003only six years after
her deathwhen Pope John Paul II beatified her before 300,000 pilgrims in St.
Peters Square. Blessed Mother Teresas entire life, he said, was a
bold proclamation of the gospel. Her feast day is September 5.
Its not unusual to see people of faith wearing a crucifix around
their neck. Susie Aki, a native of Dallas, Texas, wears hers near her heart. So did
A member of the Lay Missionaries of Charity (LMC), founded in Rome in
1984, Mrs. Aki seeks to follow Mother in every way. I do fall down, she
told Every Day Catholic, but I keep trying to be Christlike, to become
holy. Wearing her crucifix in a prominent place is a constant reminder to her
of the private vows she has taken and the woman in whose footsteps she seeks to follow.
For Mrs. Aki, a mother of four and grandmother of 13, being a lay follower
of Mother Teresa means having Jesus with her wherever she goes. At home, she seeks
to bring Jesus into her family. Beyond its walls she seeks to offer wholehearted service
to the poorest of the poor.
When you try to live this life as a Lay Missionary of Charity,
work comes naturally, said Mrs. Aki. Its a fruit of the life that
flows from the time she spends in prayer. Before I can bring Christ or anything
to anyone, I have to spend time in silence with the Lord. Otherwise, it becomes social
work. But when you have a prayer life and silence, you can turn everything over to
While there are thousands of LMC members around the world including 500
in the U.S. and Canada, some worry their numbers arent large enough. Susie Aki
is not among them. The numbers will come, she believes.
She is confident that the tiny woman whose face is still recognized around
the globe continues to speak even after her death and to remind us all that together,
we can do something beautiful for God.