FR. BEL SAN LUIS, SVD
The gospel message of this 20th Sunday is puzzling. In one part of the Scriptures, Jesus Christ promises peace: "I leave you peace, my peace I give to you."
But in this Sunday gospel, he says, "I have come to bring not peace but division" (Lk 12,51). Is that not a contradiction?
No, there is no contradiction. The core of Jesus’ teachings has always been love, unity, and peace.
What the Lord means is that God's peace should not be the kind that accepts compromises with evil or tolerates injustices and wrongdoings. Moreover, a Christian must exemplify this "peace" even at the cost of antagonizing and parting ways with relatives. "A family will be divided: fathers against their sons, mothers against daughters..." (Lk 12,53).
This message is vividly illustrated in the story of Thomas More (1477-1535) whose life was immortalized in Robert Bolt's multi-awarded movie, "A Man for All Seasons."
A devout layman and brilliant lawyer, Thomas was appointed High Chancellor of England by King Henry VIII. At a crucial point, Thomas was made to choose between friendship and loyalty to the king or his faith and conscience.
He chose the latter when he opposed King Henry's illegitimate union with Anne Boleyn and refused to recognize him as supreme head of the Church in England.
In 1535, after resisting even the entreaties of his own family, which he considered contrary to the will of God, he was executed by decapitation at the Tower of London with these parting words: "I die the king's good servant, but God's first."
There will be situations, perhaps not as dramatic and heroic as that of Thomas More, when we, too, have to witness to our Christian convictions or when we have to stand up against evil in society even if we have to go against a boss, an employer, a relative or friend.
A lady accountant of a big company, for instance, courageously reported to the department head about anomalies of some high-ranking officials. After due investigation, they were found guilty and eventually dismissed from service.
We commend certain concerned groups like the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) for their fight against anomalies and violence in society.
It’s not easy to expose and oppose wrongdoings because the wrongdoer can silence the whistle-blower by threats of violence; if that doesn’t work, it can be through a bribe.
We pray for courage to emulate the prophet Jeremiah who, in this Sunday’s first reading, stood up against King Zedekiah or St. Thomas More, who exemplified Christian values and moral conviction even at the cost of death.
In the words of the British statesman Edmund Burke: “The only way by which evil men can prosper in society is for the good to do nothing.”
Assumption. Tomorrow (Aug. 15) we celebrate the feast of the Assumption of Mother Mary. The Assumption means that after completing her life on earth, Mary was taken up (assumed) body and soul directly into heavenly glory.
The Assumption reminds us, too, that our final destiny is not in this world but in heaven and that, like Mary, we will achieve this heavenly home if we are faithful in fulfilling our Christian obligation and not living in sin.
Church signs. "Come work for the Lord. The work is hard, the hours are long and the pay is low. But the retirement benefits are out of this world."
Where will you spend eternity —smoking area (hell) or non-smoking" (heaven)?
You may party in hell daily but you will be the barbecue!