All of Jesus’ teachings enrich and challenge us as human beings. Some, like "love your enemies," are easy to understand though difficult to follow. Others, like "I have come to cause division," are puzzling. Learn more about 12 key sayings of Jesus throughout 2005.

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Living the Truth of Jesus
 
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 Luke’s Gospel, it would appear that division, not peace, is Jesus’ real mission.

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 healer’s 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, unholy
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.”

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‘Graced’ Division

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 surgeon’s knife separates a diseased organ or a tumor from the body—a moment of grace. The slave trader separates children from their parents—a 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 unions—he 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.

God’s word is a two-edged sword. God’s word admonishes us in our sin; God’s word consoles us in our desolation. God’s Word—Jesus—is the divine instrument bringing us to life, even if, momentarily, our “peace” is disturbed. When Jesus looked across the night fire into Peter’s 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.

Robert F. Morneau is an auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Green Bay, Wisconsin. He is author of numerous books, including Paths to Prayer (St. Anthony Messenger Press) and two children’s books, The Gift and A Tale from Paleface Creek (Paulist Press).

Next: I am sending you like sheep among wolves…

Questions for Reflection:

• 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.

FAMILY CORNER
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 disagree—but we can still experience God’s peace. His peace is not grounded in a particular condition or position. It is grounded in love. God’s 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 can’t,” and not dissolve when called the meanest mom/dad in the world—then 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 God’s gift of peace. Once you accept it, and rest in that gift, you can share it with all those around you.

For Family Response:

Set some time aside for family quiet time—a half hour each day for reading or working with puzzles. Make sure everyone is in the same room, but no talking.

Media Watch
Because of Winn-Dixie
By Frank Frost

Based on the acclaimed book that’s 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 him—or, 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 children—a 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 Opal’s 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 says—and demonstrates—that 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 they are.

Because of Winn-Dixie requires a childlike suspension of disbelief, especially since the story, so simply told, takes on a mythic quality. We’re not expected to literally believe everything we see. But as Opal says in the voice-over at the end, “It’s a good story. Right?”

For Media Watch:

What values do you find in this film?

SAINTS AND HEROES AMONG US
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 services—to 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 God’s 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 2003—only six years after her death—when Pope John Paul II beatified her before 300,000 pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square. Blessed Mother Teresa’s entire life, he said, was “a bold proclamation of the gospel.” Her feast day is September 5.

Susie Aki

It’s 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 Mother Teresa.

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, apostolic
work comes naturally,” said Mrs. Aki. “It’s 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 him.”

While there are thousands of LMC members around the world including 500 in the U.S. and Canada, some worry their numbers aren’t 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.”

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