No one, including Christ himself, ever said that it would be easy to live and follow the gospel. Actually, Jesus makes it painfully clear that following him will cause us much pain, even division, within our own families. This is the cost of discipleship. The words of Jesus in today's gospel are not comforting at all. On the contrary, they are deeply disturbing.
Jesus frequently called out, shouted out the hypocrisy of people who were self righteous and arrogant. He never minced his words, calling these individuals “broods of viper” and “blind guides.” Jesus was never “nice,” a word we use so often and that means so little. Jesus spoke the truth no matter the cost, even unto rejection and death.
These days of deep divisiveness as the election approaches remind us of the cost of being a disciple of Jesus, as families and friends are divided over how one will vote. So many people are keeping their feelings and choices about how they will vote totally to themselves to avoid confrontation. How sad that we can’t find a way to disagree without causing so much pain and viciousness. I had to remove myself from Facebook to avoid having to read, on a daily basis, vile comments from people I know and care about.
“I have come to set the world on fire... how I wish it were ablaze,” says Jesus. These words cut through the heart, piercing our indifference, awakening the power and fire of the Spirit dwelling right in the center of the heart. As baptized people, we are called out of our comfort zones and into the world, on fire, not with “niceness,” but with the fire of conviction, compassion, mercy, and a sense of justice.
We choose to vote for the candidates who dare to take the side of those on the fringes, the poor, alienated, the unwelcome, the sick, the unborn when developing platforms and policies. We vote for individuals who want to unite, not divide, and are willing to take unpopular positions from the rigid base of their party. A good catholic is one who cherishes the dignity of each and every human life, from the unborn to the dying; a good catholic wants to face squarely the sin of racism and the means to repair centuries of injustice; a good catholic wants the candidate to be compassionate to those who live in the shadows, afraid because of their immigration status; a good catholic sees how our current economic system benefits the comfortable and the wealthy; a good catholic wants every human being to have proper health care; a good catholic wants every child to have the best of education; every good catholic must face the unpopular truths in all of these areas.
In the days approaching the election and following, may we pray daily for the Spirit to strengthen us to be very uncomfortable, to act, speak and vote in ways that reflect deeply held beliefs...no matter the cost.
Christ never promised that it would be easy to follow his Way.