All of us– either belong to, are related to, or are friends of — a family that is divided.
A divided family can come in many shapes and sizes: a husband and wife who are separated or divorced.
Children who no longer speak to their parents or vice-versa.
Brothers and sisters who no longer communicate with each other.
In-laws who don’t - or who are not allowed – to attend family functions.
Grandparents who have never seen, or rarely see – their grandchildren.
We have read about some divided families recently in the Gospel of Luke:
“Lord, tell my brother to share the inheritance with me.”
“Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving.”
Or can’t you just hear the wife of the rich man whose land produced a bountiful harvest: “how about adding on to the house— instead of building bigger barns??”
Oddly enough, in today’s Gospel, Jesus says that he has come to divide families: “A family of five will be divided: three against two and two against three. . .”
The same man which we call the Prince of Peace now tells us that he has come to bring division – not peace.
What’s Jesus talking about???
Is he really for divided families?
To understand the comments of Jesus, we have to put them in context.
In his day, Jesus found some aspects of Jewish faith lacking in compassion.
It was too legalistic and rigid. More concerned about the keeping of rules and regulations than about people - and meeting them where they are.
Jesus was claiming to be the compassionate Son of God - one who shows mercy and offers forgiveness. Who once said, “I desire mercy - and not sacrifice. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Eventually, many people came to follow him – many people who had previously been faithful members of the synagogue.
And those who began to follow Jesus, no doubt, caused disruption in their families.
Can’t you just hear a devout Jewish father saying to his son: “If you keep following after that Jesus – you will never set foot in this house again.”
Or a distraught Jewish mother saying to her daughter: “As long as you live in my house – you will do as I say – which is to go to the synagogue, not off to some hillside to listen to that man. . .”
Jesus’ “new way” as it was called in the years after his ascension – obviously must have split families: three against two and two against three.
So what Jesus is talking about – is that a person’s choices – based on values – can and will divide families: where your treasure is, there your heart shall be.
Not everyone in a family will treasure the same things – and so hearts will be in different places, focused on different things – and THIS can bring about division.
A person who chose the values of the kingdom Jesus was preaching was putting themselves at odds with traditional Jewish values – especially of the rule keeping type.
Division is a natural consequence when core-values contradict. This was true in Jesus’ day –and it is true in ours.
But just because we disagree – doesn’t mean we immediately move to shutting down communication – stop listening – stop talking – and cutting that person out of our lives - and dismissing them never to interact with them again:
Which seems to be the case in many families - certainly in our country - and even in our Church
Because if we really value these relationships – THEN WE NEVER GIVE UP ON EACH OTHER.
Jesus also told us: if you bring your gift to the altar and know that you are at odds with your brother or sister – go first to be reconciled – then bring your gift to the altar.
So we try our best to forgive and reconcile. We try to understand where the other person is coming from and why they value what they do.
We try to lift each other out of the muddy pit instead of shoving each other deeper by our anger, our misunderstanding, or our judgment.
Where your treasure is - there your heart shall be. . .
The fire that Jesus wishes to set ablaze in our hearts – in our lives – and in our world –
Is the fire of love, and mercy, and forgiveness, and reconciliation.
As Pope Francis recently told a group of Bishops from Malawi: [muh-la-wee]
“There is no aspect of family life – childhood and youth; friendship, engagement and marriage; spousal intimacy, fidelity and love; interpersonal relationships and support – which is excluded from the healing and strengthening touch of God’s love and forgiveness – communicated through the Gospels and taught by the Church.”
We are all in need of God’s healing touch - God’s understanding heart - God’s mercy reaching out to us. God has never given up on the people God has called - no matter how far they have strayed — and we are called to have the mind and heart of God. . .
And so we do pray that by the power of the Holy Spirit - as we partake of the one Bread of the Eucharist - we may be gathered into one Body of Christ who heals every division.
If our family truly is our treasure – then we will set our hearts on making our families the place where no matter what someone says or does – it is a place of compassion. And a place of challenge to become the people God is calling us to be.
Moments in time...